ASEAN says Myanmar is ‘part of the family’ as summit concludes

Brunei Sultan says the Southeast Asian grouping hopes the coup leaders will cooperate and help the country return to normalcy.

Myanmar is ‘part of the ASEAN family’, Brunei has said, after a summit of the Southeast Asian regional group, which banned Myanmar General Min Aung Hlaing for failing to implement a reconciliation plan agreed at a previous meeting in April.

The military seized power in Myanmar in February, detaining civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and sparking mass protests and economic chaos.

More than 1,200 people have been killed in the crackdown on the anti-coup movement, and unrest has escalated in long-troubled border areas despite Min Aung Hlaing’s promise to end the violence as part of the so-called ‘Five Point Consensus ‘which he agreed to. with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

When asked about the future government of Myanmar after the unprecedented snub to the head of the armed forces, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei emphasized the continued membership of the country.

“Myanmar is an integral part of the ASEAN family and its membership has not been questioned,” he said. “ASEAN will always be there for Myanmar and we have continued to offer assistance through the implementation of the five-point consensus.”

The pact also included commitments to initiate dialogue and facilitate humanitarian aid and mediation efforts by an ASEAN special envoy.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen raises the gavel as his country assumes the ASEAN presidency. The country has said it will maintain pressure on Myanmar amid the turmoil caused by the February military coup. [Brunei ASEAN Summit via AP Photo]

The sultan, who chaired the three-day online summit that ended Thursday, said the 10-member organized group hoped the generals would work with their envoy to defuse the political crisis and that “Myanmar will return to normal, according to the will of its people ”.

In a separate press conference, Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah emphasized that this week’s absence was Myanmar’s choice, and that it was unclear whether the country would join future meetings.

“That is the million dollar question that I cannot answer,” Saifuddin said.

This week’s summit was the last with Brunei as president.

Cambodia now takes the helm of the organization.

Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn told the Reuters news agency on Thursday that Cambodia will maintain pressure on Myanmar, warning that the country is on the brink of a civil war.

ASEAN appointed Brunei’s second foreign minister, Erywan Yusof, as its special envoy to Myanmar in August, after months of disputes.

She has not yet visited the country because the military has refused to allow her to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, who is on trial on a series of charges that could land her in jail for decades.

[Think you need to add that the UN says the charges are politically motivated, or other fact that sheds light on the questionability of the charges]

Myanmar joined ASEAN in 1997 under a previous military regime.

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