Leaders of China and Southeast Asian countries met on Monday, November 22, without a representative of Myanmar, with the military-ruled nation skipping another international summit after its neighbors excluded its junta chief.
Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah confirmed information provided by several sources that a diplomat expected to represent Myanmar at the virtual meeting did not show up.
Myanmar boycotted summits hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) last month, rejecting ASEAN’s insistence that it be represented by a non-political figure.
ASEAN made the unprecedented call to exclude military chief Min Aung Hlaing over his failure to take agreed steps to solve a deadly crisis triggered by the February 1 coup he led against an elected government.
Saifuddin said that as of Sunday, ASEAN countries excluding Myanmar had agreed with China that Myanmar’s ambassador to Beijing would join the meeting, hosted by China President Xi Jinping.
“There was an empty chair on Myanmar’s side, but at least there was some kind of consensus as to who will represent Myanmar,” he told a briefing, adding that by Monday, Myanmar had not given word of its attendance.
“At least there was a name.”
Myanmar’s junta had no immediate comment and a spokesman could not immediately be reached. Other ASEAN countries had no immediate official comments.
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong posted a screenshot of the meeting will all countries present except Myanmar, but made no specific reference to the absence.
China had lobbied ASEAN for Min Aung Hlaing to be allowed to attend, but that met stiff opposition.
The no-show could be a blow to China, a key source of trade and investment in Myanmar and one of its few diplomatic allies during its decades of sanctions and international isolation.
Saifuddin said ASEAN members were “still very hopeful” a visit to Myanmar by a special ASEAN envoy will materialise.
He added that ASEAN was “appreciative of China’s role” on the Myanmar issue.
“That shows in many ways how ASEAN and China respect each other’s position and were willing to come to some kind of understanding,” he said. – Rappler.com