A bird flies near ASEAN secretariat building ahead of the summit in Jakarta
FILE PHOTO: A bird flies near the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) secretariat building, ahead of the ASEAN leaders’ meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, April 23, 2021. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

October 14, 2021

By Rozanna Latiff and Tom Allard

(Reuters) -Southeast Asian foreign ministers will discuss excluding Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing from a coming regional summit at a meeting on Friday, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.

Several members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have strongly criticised the military government’s inaction on a five-point plan that it agreed to with the bloc in April, centring on dialogue among all parties, humanitarian access and an end of hostilities.

Friday’s previously unscheduled, virtual meeting will be hosted by current ASEAN chair, Brunei, said the sources based in ASEAN member countries, who included a diplomat and another government official.

Myanmar’s military spokesman Zaw Min Tun did not respond to calls seeking comment on the meeting. Brunei’s foreign ministry did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Erywan Yusof, the bloc’s special envoy to Myanmar, last week confirmed some members had been “deep in discussions” about not inviting the coup leader to the Oct. 26-28 virtual summit.

He said the junta’s lack of commitment to the process was “tantamount to backtracking”. Erywan’s office declined to comment on Friday’s meeting.

Myanmar, with a long history of military dictatorship and international allegations of systematic human rights abuses, has been ASEAN’s trickiest issue since the group was formed in 1967, testing the limits of its unity and its policy of non-interference.

The United Nations, United States and China, among others, have backed ASEAN’s efforts to find a diplomatic solution, but pressure on the group has mounted in recent months, with some critics calling for tougher measures to respond to Myanmar’s recalcitrance.

More than 1,100 people have been killed since the coup, according to the United Nations, many during a crackdown by security forces on strikes and protests allied with Aung San Suu Kyi’s ousted government.

Erywan said this week he was in consultations with parties in Myanmar, does not take sides or political positions and looks forward to a visit.

Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tin, in written remarks dated Wednesday, said the envoy would not be allowed to meet Suu Kyi because she is charged with crimes.

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff in Kuala Lumpur and Tom Allard in Jakarta; Additional reporting by Ain Bandial in Bandar Seri Begawan; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by William Mallard)

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