Discord over Myanmar as ASEAN postpones year’s first meeting


(Reuters) – Unresolved variations about engagement with Myanmar’s army rulers are inflicting discord among the many Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), diplomats and authorities officers say, as a ministers’ meeting set for this week was pushed again.

The friction follows a tumultuous ultimate few months of 2021 after ASEAN took the unprecedented step of sidelining Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing from its leaders’ summit within the wake of a army coup and use of lethal power towards protesters.

The thorny subject of Myanmar attending ASEAN occasions stays unresolved, stated Indonesian international ministry official Abdul Kadir Jailani.

“It should be admitted that point continues to be wanted to unite views,” Jailani, the ministry’s director-general for Asian, Pacific and African affairs, instructed reporters.

However, Cambodia’s postponement of this week’s opening meeting of its time period as chairman of the regional grouping was comprehensible, he added, for the reason that Omicron variant of coronavirus stays a menace.

Cambodia had cited journey difficulties that prevented the attendance of some international ministers when it postponed the meeting final week.

Cambodia has indicated it needs to interact the junta and had invited its international minister, retired colonel Wunna Maung Lwin, to the ASEAN opening meet, two diplomatic sources instructed Reuters.

In latest days, Malaysia’s international minister, Saifuddin Abdullah, and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have opposed the concept of inviting again the junta, as it had made no progress on an agreed five-point ASEAN “consensus” on resolving the Myanmar disaster.

On Friday, Lee instructed ASEAN chair and Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen that any change in its Myanmar coverage “needed to be based mostly on new info”.

The disagreement signifies a difficult 12 months forward for ASEAN, threatening extra publicity of its inner fissures and endangering the grouping’s credibility as its internationally-backed Myanmar peace effort falters.


Cambodia’s international ministry spokesperson Kuy Kuong declined to elaborate on why ministers couldn’t attend. Myanmar’s army authorities couldn’t be reached and has made no touch upon the meeting or its postponement.

The determination got here simply days after Hun Sen travelled to Myanmar to satisfy Min Aung Hlaing, prompting concern inside and out of doors ASEAN that his go to would possibly legitimise the junta.

Min Aung Hlaing, who was excluded from the ASEAN leaders’ meeting, later thanked Hun Sen for “standing with Myanmar”.

Cambodia’s invitation to the junta’s prime diplomat, Wunna Maung Lwin, was a bone of rivalry, stated a diplomatic supply acquainted with the matter, including that a number of members objected to latest developments.

“The fundamental subject was disagreement over the invitation despatched to Wunna by Cambodia,” stated the supply, who speaks with regional companions.

“Indonesia and Malaysia weren’t proud of the end result of Hun Sen’s go to, particularly the linkage of ASEAN’s five-point consensus on Myanmar and the junta’s five-point roadmap.”

The roadmap, which the generals have been touting since their coup, differs considerably from the ASEAN settlement.

Philippine international minister Teodoro Locsin has harassed that ASEAN’s consensus “should not be tied to any roadmap”. He additionally praised Hun Sen for making headway throughout his Myanmar journey.

Another diplomatic supply stated their understanding was that each the Omicron threat and disagreements over Myanmar, and particularly, Wunna Maung Lwin’s invitation, had performed a job within the postponement.

There had been a “hardening of the place of some on this explicit subject”, the supply stated, including that Cambodia had proposed holding a number of the scheduled occasions on-line.

On Thursday, Malaysia’s Saifuddin stated scheduling components had led to the postponement of the meeting, amongst them a state wedding ceremony, journey curbs that stored one minister from attending, and an essential session of the Malaysian parliament.

However, Saifuddin acknowledged that forward of the postponement there have been differing opinions inside ASEAN about Hun Sen’s go to to Myanmar, including that he “may have most likely consulted the opposite ASEAN leaders and sought our views”.

(Reporting by Poppy McPherson in Bangkok, Tom Allard in Jakarta and Rozanna Latiff in Kuala Lumpur; Additional reporting by Panu Wongcha-um in Bangkok and Prak Chan Thul in Phnom Penh; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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