Junta claims ASEAN military exercise will be useful in fight against NUG and PDF

The governments of Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and the United States, which normally participate in training for ASEAN and neighbouring countries’ defence ministries, have boycotted recent meetings co-chaired by Russia and the Myanmar regime

The military council claimed on Wednesday that a recent counter-terrorism exercise co-chaired by Russia for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) would help their campaign against resistance groups in Myanmar. 

The membership of ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus) Experts’ Working Group on Counter-Terrorism includes the defence ministers of all ten ASEAN states as well as dialogue partners China, India, and Russia. 

The working group, co-chaired by the Myanmar regime and the Russian Federation since 2021, convened in Naypyitaw between August 2 and 4 for a tabletop exercise intended to prepare the participating states to respond to terrorist and insurgent attacks.

The August training also served as a preliminary discussion for field exercises scheduled to take place in Russia next month. 

As revealed in the public statement, published in the pro-junta outlet Global New Light of Myanmar, junta representatives attending the exercise discussed tactics that could be used against the National Unity Government (NUG) and the People’s Defence Forces (PDF)—opposition groups that the regime has labelled “terrorists.”

Min Khant, a columnist for the Global New Light of Myanmar, wrote that the public should “combat against terrorism in unity” in an article that referred to the PDF and NUG as terrorist organisations and referred to acts of resistance against the coup regime as terrorism.

There were also references to the NUG and PDF as terrorist organisations at an ADMM-Plus counter-terrorism conference held in Khabarovsk, Russia in June, as well as in written conference materials translated into English, Russian, and Mandarin and distributed to the member governments.

Singapore was the only ASEAN member not represented at the August exercise in Naypyitaw. A diplomatic source told Myanmar Now that Singapore’s defence ministry decided against attending when their request to join the discussion online was denied.

Myanmar and Russian military officers seen at the Naypyidaw conference

The governments of Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and the United States—customary members of the ADMM-Plus working group—have all boycotted the group’s recent conferences and exercises, arranged jointly by the Russian and Myanmar regimes. 

Explaining the United States’ rationale for the boycott, a spokesperson for the United States Department of Defence said in June that Russia and Myanmar were abusing their positions as co-chairs of the group to imply other governments’ support for their own atrocities and disregard for the rule of law. 

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