Summit snub a good move

Summit snub a good move

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has finally given the cold shoulder to Myanmar's junta leader Min Aung Hlaing by excluding him from a forthcoming summit later this month, much to the latter's chagrin.

Asean foreign ministers decided in an emergency online meeting on Friday to invite a non-political representative from Myanmar to its summit on Oct 26-28. The not welcome gesture against the coup maker, who toppled the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb 1, was confirmed by Brunei as the Asean chair.

As expected, Nay Pyi Taw responded angrily to the snub, an unprecedented move for the grouping that is known for its non-interference principle since its establishment in 1967. Myanmar's foreign ministry lambasted the decision as being "against the objectives of Asean" as it was made without consensus. Meanwhile, the shadow government praised the Oct 15 decision.

Over the past several months, Asean's attempts to bring peace back to Myanmar have been futile as Nay Pyi Taw is refusing to cooperate. The military regime continues to brutally suppress pro-democracy demonstrators, having killed several hundred and thrown thousands behind bars, including former leader Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD members. In doing so, the Myanmar junta is taking advantage of the bloc's soft stance, while the country has effectively turned into a regional source of threats. The bloc's disunity, has indeed, heightened challenges to the bloc's centrality.

The last straw for Asean came after the junta turned down a request by Brunei's second foreign minister Erywan Yusof, in his capacity as special envoy on Myanmar, to visit the country and meet with all stakeholders. The planned visit is one of the points that were agreed in the five-point consensus aimed at restoring peace to Myanmar.

By toughening its stance against the Myanmar regime, the bloc has signalled that it means business.

The bloc's reluctance to deal with Min Aung Hlaing's regime might have stemmed from fears of effectively disengaging Myanmar and harming businesses that each of its members have in the country. But Asean must be aware that without long-lasting stability, Myanmar cannot be a good investment destination in any way. A democratic, open environment under a government which has the people's mandate, like Ms Suu Kyi's government, is better for business.

Yesterday, the junta said it will release more than 5,000 anti-coup protesters, probably as a gesture of compromise. However, this is not enough.

What the world and the people of Myanmar need, is their commitment to the peace process, and restoration of democracy.

Resources-rich Myanmar -- together with Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia -- joined the grouping after the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, much later than the rest of the group. Back then, there were concerns that countries which were then under a military regime would be a political burden to the regional group. After the Feb 1 coup in Myanmar, such concerns, as it turned out, are still valid.

Given the current circumstances, Asean has to push further to get the peace process in Myanmar up and running. By giving a strong message through not inviting Min Aung Hlaing, Asean has done the right thing.

The bloc must keep working towards engaging more powerful countries and bigger regional blocs to make sure its peace plan can be translated into action. Myanmar's military needs to know only long-lasting peace will benefit the country. An authoritarian regime under a dictator is simply too costly.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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