Myanmar junta rejects ‘downgraded’ representation at ASEAN summit

Myanmar’s military junta will not accept a “downgraded” role at an upcoming summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), it said in a statement released on Monday.

The regime, which was informed last week that it would not be allowed to send its top leader, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, to the summit scheduled to begin on Tuesday, rejected an invitation to send a “non-political representative” instead.

The invitation, which was extended by current ASEAN chair Brunei to Chan Aye, Myanmar’s highest-ranking diplomat, denies the country “equal rights enjoyed by other ASEAN member states,” the regime said in its statement.

Speaking to local media outlet One News on Monday, junta spokesperson Maj-Gen Zaw Min Tun accused ASEAN of violating the regime’s “legitimate position” and added that some member states “do not treat the country equally.”

“They must invite our head of state because the summit is about meetings between the heads of member states,” he said.

The annual three-day summit of Southeast Asian leaders will be the first since Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup in February. It will also be joined by US President Joe Biden and the leaders of China and Russia. 

On October 16, Brunei announced that Min Aung Hlaing would not be invited to the upcoming summit due to his regime’s failure to implement a five-point consensus reached between the junta and the regional grouping in April.

In an interview with BBC’s Burmese-language service the following day, Zaw Min Tun called the decision “disappointing” and remarked that the regional association’s policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states had been weakened due to “external pressures and other reasons.”

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