KOMPAS.com - Cambodia, the incumbent chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, says the Myanmar Junta’s Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin will not be invited to attend the 10-nation bloc’s meeting in Phnom Penh this month.
“Since there is little progress in the implementation of the 5-Point Consensus, ASEAN member states find it hard to reach a consensus to invite Myanmar SAC’s foreign minister to participate in the Retreat,” Cambodian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Chum Sounry told VOA Khmer on Wednesday, using an acronym of the Myanmar junta’s official name State Administration Council.
“Thus, we have asked Myanmar to send a non-political representative instead,” Chum Sounry said.
The gathering, known officially as the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat, is one of the regional grouping’s most prominent annual meetings. It is scheduled to take place in Phnom Penh on February 16-17.
The decision by Phnom Penh not to invite the junta’s foreign minister indicates a reversal by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government following his engagement in recent months with Myanmar’s coup-making generals – which included a visit to Naypyidaw – and after it had met resistance from fellow ASEAN member states, including Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.
Amid disagreement in early January, Cambodia decided to postpone the retreat that originally was set to be held January 18-19 in the northern town of Siem Reap.
Hun Sen said earlier that he wanted to restore the ASEAN-10 instead of the continued ban of the Myanmar junta.
“We encourage Myanmar to be present at the Retreat at a non-political level rather than leaving the seat empty. It is up to Myanmar to decide who that “non-political level” would be,” Chum Sounry said.
In subsequent calls with his ASEAN counterparts in January, Hun Sen firstly acknowledged the existence of the National Unity Government – Myanmar’s government in exile – and started raising the bar for the Myanmar Junta to show “progress” in implementing the bloc’s five-point consensus to be able to attend ASEAN’s political-level meetings.