0243 GMT November 27, 2021
Foreign ministers from the ASEAN agreed at an emergency meeting late Friday that a “non-political representative” for Myanmar be invited to the October 26-28 summit, current ASEAN chair Brunei said in a statement, according to AFP.
The decision effectively excluded junta leader Min Aung Hlaing.
The bloc took a strong stand after the junta rebuffed requests for a special envoy to meet with all parties concerned – a phrase seen to include ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The statement noted “insufficient progress” in the implementation of a five-point plan agreed by ASEAN leaders in April to end turmoil following a coup in February.
It also said that the situation in Myanmar “was having an impact on regional security as well as the unity, credibility and centrality of ASEAN”.
Richard Horsey, Myanmar adviser to Crisis Group, predicted the “non-political” representative would be someone below the level of minister or deputy minister.
Singapore’s Foreign Ministry described the move as a “difficult but necessary decision to uphold ASEAN’s credibility”.
Mustafa Izzuddin, global affairs analyst at consultancy Solaris Strategies Singapore, called the exclusion “a political stopgap measure for ASEAN to assuage international criticism”.
It sent a “political signal” to the junta “that ASEAN is not one to be pushed around”, Izzuddin added.
Myanmar, mostly ruled by the military since a 1962 coup, has been a thorn in ASEAN’s side since it joined in 1997.
Elections in 2015 overwhelmingly won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party ushered in the start of civilian rule – but this was cut short by the coup.
ASEAN has been under international pressure to address unrest that erupted after the putsch, including massive protests; renewed clashes between the military and ethnic rebel armies in border regions; and an economy spiralling into freefall.
The bloc has expressed disappointment at a lack of cooperation from the junta, which continues to crack down brutally on dissent. More than 1,000 civilians have been killed, according to a local monitoring group.