Myanmar military barred from ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting

The move comes as the UN Security Council also condemned violence in Myanmar and urged the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Myanmar soldiers walk along a street during a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, February 28, 2021.
Myanmar soldiers walk along a street during a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, February 28, 2021 [File: Reuters]

The Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has barred Myanmar’s military-appointed foreign minister from attending an upcoming meeting, after the United Nations Security Council called for an end to “all forms of violence” in the country as well as the release of detained civilian leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

An official from Cambodia, which holds ASEAN’s rotating chairmanship, said on Thursday that Myanmar’s Wunna Maung Lwin will not be able to participate in a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers later this month because of a lack of progress on a peace plan that the country’s top general had agreed to last year.

Instead, a non-political representative from Myanmar has been invited to attend the meeting on February 16 and 17, said Chum Sounry, spokesman for Cambodia’s foreign ministry.

“Since there has been little progress in carrying out ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus, the ASEAN member states did not reach a consensus to invite Myanmar SAC’s foreign minister to participate in the upcoming foreign ministers’ retreat,” Sounry told the AFP news agency.

The snub deals a fresh diplomatic blow to Myanmar, which has become increasingly isolated on the international stage a year after Senior General Min Aung Hlaing seized power in a coup.

The power grab plunged Myanmar into crisis, with security forces killing more than 1,500 civilians in crackdowns on anti-coup protests. Fighting has also erupted in Myanmar’s countryside and border areas, between the military and pro-democracy groups who have taken up arms as well as ethnic armed groups.

Amid the escalating violence, ASEAN took the unprecedented step last year of barring Min Aung Hlaing from a summit in October.

However, the bloc remains divided on the issue, with Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen favouring engagement with Myanmar’s generals. The Cambodian leader visited Myanmar in January and met Min Aung Hlaing, a trip that some ASEAN members worried could be construed as an endorsement of the military government.

Separately, the UN Security Council on Wednesday issued a statement saying it was deeply concerned by a continuing state of emergency imposed by the military in Myanmar and pushed for talks to resolve the situation in line “with the will and interests of the people”.

The statement was approved by all 15 members of the UN’s most powerful body.

It also called for the release of all those still arbitrarily detained, including Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.

“The members of the Security Council expressed deep concern at further recent violence in the country and expressed alarm at the large numbers of internally displaced persons. They condemned attacks on infrastructure, including health and education facilities,” it said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies