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Myanmar snubs ASEAN meeting

BANGKOK (AP) – Myanmar will not participate in this week’s meetings in Cambodia of foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), spurning an invitation to send a non-political representative instead of its chief diplomat, its government said on Monday.

Cambodia, the current ASEAN chair, said earlier this month that members of the regional group had failed to reach a consensus on inviting Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin to its meetings today and tomorrow in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. Wunna Maung Lwin was appointed Foreign Minister after the military seized power in Myanmar last year, ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The decision to restrict Myanmar’s participation reflected a disagreement over Myanmar’s lack of cooperation in implementing measures agreed upon by the 10-member group last year to help ease that country’s violent political crisis following the army’s takeover.

The head of Myanmar’s military government, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, was not invited to last October’s virtual meeting of ASEAN leaders because of the disagreement.

That rebuke was issued shortly after Myanmar declined to let an ASEAN special envoy meet with Suu Kyi, who has been in detention since the military took power. “Despite the efforts made by the ASEAN chair and Myanmar to promote cooperation in ASEAN, it is regrettable to see the return of the decision made last year which Myanmar in principle is unable to accept,” Myanmar’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement on Monday night. “In this regard, Myanmar’s inability to participate or even designate a non-political representative… is inevitable since it contradicts the principles and practice of equal representation in ASEAN.”

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has said he believes it is important that Myanmar attend the next summit.

Hun Sen travelled to Myanmar in January, becoming the first foreign leader to visit since the military takeover. He has repeatedly declared his interest in resolving the impasse between ASEAN and Myanmar.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen with Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin in Myanmar. PHOTO: AP