Myanmar junta participation cancelled at ASEAN tourism meeting
Indonesia appears to have halted a Myanmar military council official’s planned attendance at a tourism conference to be held by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this week in Yogyakarta.
The ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF), slated to be hosted in the Indonesian city from February 2-5, comes shortly after Indonesia assumed chairmanship of the regional bloc for the year 2023.
In November last year, Indonesian President Joko Widodo endorsed a proposed ban on Myanmar’s participation in all ASEAN activities beyond major summits. The aim of the ban—which has not been adopted by the organisation’s other member states—is to hold the junta to account for flouting the bloc’s recommended measures to end violence in Myanmar.
Two months after Myanmar’s military seized power in February 2021, ASEAN members approved a “Five-Point Consensus” stipulating that an envoy be granted access to all parties in Myanmar’s conflict, including the coup regime’s opponents, in order to mediate a resolution.
Once the consensus was finalised, the junta effectively reneged, ignoring the terms of the plan and stating that it would consider implementing them only when the political situation in the country “stabilised.”
Despite this resistance, the junta’s then minister of hotels and tourism Htay Aung appeared on the ATF website’s list of invitees until Monday, when his name and photo were removed without explanation.
On Wednesday, the military council announced a reshuffle that included the appointment of Htay Aung as the chair of the Anti-Corruption Commission. He was replaced in his ministerial post by Aung Thaw, a retired navy officer and former deputy minister of defence under ex-general Thein Sein’s government, most recently serving as president of the Myanmar-Russia Friendship Association.
At the time of reporting, a one-hour media briefing for Myanmar’s national tourism office was still scheduled for Thursday, in line with the ATF launch.
When asked if the invitation to Htay Aung had been withdrawn, secretary of Indonesia’s tourism ministry Ni Wayan Giri Adnyani only claimed that Indonesia had invited a “non-political representative,” which she defined as someone at “the senior official level,” adding that such a move was routinely extended to member countries attending a forum of this kind.
“There is no invitation to the minister,” she added.
Like other ASEAN summits, the aim of the ATF is to foster economic integration and cooperation among the 10 member states. With Indonesia serving as chair, ASEAN is expected to take a harder line in holding the Myanmar junta accountable than under the preceding chairmanship of Cambodia in 2022.