Myanmar’s regime leader found himself excluded from another major regional meeting Monday as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and host China held the ASEAN-China special summit without inviting him.
It’s the second time in two months that the coup leader has been officially shunned by the regional bloc’s members, and comes as another huge embarrassment for Myanmar junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who desperately seeks legitimacy for his regime as the rightful government of Myanmar, especially from ASEAN and powerful neighbor China.
The Southeast Asian nation has been in political turmoil since a military coup in February, with Min Aung Hlaing facing nationwide resistance for his rule and brutal crackdowns on anti-regime protesters. Furthermore, the regime is facing a contesting claim for recognition as the country’s government in the form of the country’s civilian parallel National Unity Government (NUG), which was formed by lawmakers from Myanmar’s ousted ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) and their ethnic allies.
Monday’s meeting commemorates the 30th anniversary of the establishment of relations between China and ASEAN. When Chinese leader Xi Jinping and other heads of government from ASEAN member states join the virtual meeting on Monday, the window for Myanmar will be vacant.
China wanted to invite Myanmar junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to the summit but decided not to after the regional grouping objected.
Sun Guoxiang, the special envoy for Asian affairs at China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, visited Myanmar before the summit and held a meeting with Min Aung Hlaing.
Before he arrived, he visited Singapore and Brunei and was told that Min Aung Hlaing was not welcome at the virtual summit. Faced with ASEAN’s opposition, Sun told Min Aung Hlaing at a meeting in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyitaw, last weekend that China had to accept ASEAN’s stance.
Min Aung Hlaing was excluded from an ASEAN summit last month at the insistence of some member states including Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei, after he failed to honor his commitment to ASEAN to take steps to solve the political crisis resulting from his military takeover. Among other examples of noncooperation, he has refused to allow ASEAN’s envoy to meet detained ousted State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
While barring Min Aung Hlaing from attending its summit, ASEAN also took its engagement with the NUG to a new level this week, officially inviting Dr. Tu Hkawng, the shadow government’s minister of natural resources and environmental conservation, to its international conference on climate and disaster as the minister from Myanmar.
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