WASHINGTON: The Myanmar military has been invited to take part in a regional military meeting in Bangkok co-chaired by Thailand and the United States, the US military confirmed on Monday.
The invitation comes despite continuing condemnation by Washington of the military junta that overthrew Myanmar’s democratically elected government. The US has also imposed sanctions on several key members of the military and their associates.
The United States and Thailand are co-chairing the Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM)-Plus experts’ working group on maritime security. Participants plan to meet from Feb 20-24 in Bangkok for a “table-top exercise” and related activities.
A Pentagon spokesman said that the attendance is determined by Asean member states.
“The United States continues to join the international community in responding forcefully to the military coup in Myanmar to urge the regime to end violence, release all those unjustly detained, and restore its path to democracy, to include through ADMM-Plus forums,” said Lieut Col Marty Meiners, a Pentagon spokesman.
The news was first reported by Myanmar Now.
This is not the first time that Myanmar has been invited to a military exercise involving the United States. Myanmar attended the same forum virtually last year.
In 2017, the Pentagon invited Myanmar as an observer in a major multinational military exercise led by the US and Thailand.
Myanmar’s armed forces launched a military operation in 2017 that forced at least 730,000 of the mainly Muslim Rohingya from their homes and into neighbouring Bangladesh, where they recounted killings, mass rape and arson. The military seized power in a coup on Feb 1, 2021.
Last year President Joe Biden’s administration formally determined that violence committed against the Rohingya minority amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity. The military has denied genocide, saying its crackdown was aimed at Rohingya rebels who had carried out attacks.
More than a million Rohingya are living in squalid camps in southern Bangladesh comprising the world’s largest refugee settlement, with little prospect of returning to Myanmar, where they are mostly denied citizenship and other rights.