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Despite requests to exclude the junta, a Myanmar minister attends an ASEAN defence summit

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English -  Despite demands from certain members of the regional bloc and pro-democracy organisations to keep the ju...


Image: Reuters

Berita 24 English -  Despite demands from certain members of the regional bloc and pro-democracy organisations to keep the junta out of such gatherings, Myanmar's military-appointed defence minister attended a conference of his Southeast Asian counterparts on Wednesday.

The highest senior representative of Myanmar to participate in an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ministerial meeting since the junta was expelled late last year for violating a peace agreement with ASEAN is General Mya Tun Oo.

The 10-nation bloc continues to be divided over how to handle the military, which took control of Myanmar last year and has since conducted a brutal campaign against its opponents.

The current chair, Cambodia, has been requested by Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia to keep the junta out of the meeting until more is done to put an end to hostilities.

Even though the military government was represented at the meeting on Wednesday, the Malaysian defence ministry stated that "this does not mean Malaysia recognises the (junta) as the legitimate government of Myanmar."

The presence of the Myanmar general, according to Cambodia's Minister of Defense Tea Banh, indicated a coordinated group.

He responded to criticism over having Myanmar in the meeting by saying, "This is a participation to find solutions and this accusation, that accusation, we can't respond to all of them."

Although the ministers' conversation was not made public, they all expressed support for efforts to "bring about a peaceful transition to normalcy in Myanmar" through a special envoy in a joint statement provided to the media.

Democracy advocates have expressed worries that attempts to work with the junta legitimise it, both in Myanmar and internationally.

In an open letter last week signed by more than 650 civil society organisations, the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights network stated: "(ASEAN defence ministers') engagement with the junta, which has included military exercises, may likely amount to the aiding and abetting of the junta's war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Later on Wednesday, the 10 defence ministers from Southeast Asia are scheduled to virtually meet with their colleagues from China and Japan, according to Tea Banh.



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