ASEAN in talks on barring Myanmar junta chief from summit: envoy

Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei) (AFP) –


Southeast Asian nations are discussing whether to exclude Myanmar's junta chief from a summit due to slow progress on a plan to address turmoil after a coup in the country earlier this year, a top diplomat said Wednesday.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been under pressure to address unrest in the aftermath of the military power grab in February and a subsequent crackdown on dissent.

But members of the 10-nation bloc have voiced disappointment over the Myanmar junta's reluctance to abide by a five-point plan reached by the group's leaders in April to resolve the turmoil.

This includes allowing a visit by a special envoy to the country.

This prompted Malaysia and other countries -- during a video call by ASEAN foreign ministers Monday -- to raise the possibility of not inviting the junta leader Min Aung Hlaing to a summit this month.

"I can say that we are now deeply in discussion on this matter," said Brunei's Second Foreign Minister Erywan Yusof, who was chosen as the special envoy in August after months of negotiations.

"What... is critical is to see progress in the five-point consensus," he told reporters in Bandar Seri Begawan, capital of Brunei, which holds ASEAN's rotating chair this year.

He said Myanmar had agreed to the plan and the junta's reluctance to adhere to it was "tantamount to basically backtracking".

Asked if action will be taken at the summit to suspend Myanmar, Erywan said this was not being discussed.

Erywan said he was ready to visit Myanmar and was waiting for a programme from the junta that would include his itinerary and the people he would be allowed to meet.

Last Thursday, a junta spokesman said it would be "difficult" for the envoy to hold talks with people on trial.

It was in apparent reference to pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was ousted in the coup.

She is currently facing charges including flouting coronavirus restrictions during polls last year that her party won in a landslide, illegally importing walkie-talkies and sedition.

She faces decades in prison if convicted on all charges.

The junta has promised to hold elections and lift a state of emergency by August 2023.