ASEAN foreign ministers discuss Myanmar’s political crisis

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Southeast Asian foreign ministers met in Jakarta Thursday to discuss the political crisis in Myanmar ahead of November’s ASEAN leaders’ summit, without a representative from the country’s military junta.

Myanmar has been in chaos since a coup in February last year, with more than 2,300 killed in the military’s brutal crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitoring group.

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The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has said it is “gravely concerned” over escalating human rights abuses there, but its efforts to resolve the crisis are yet to bear fruit.

A five-point ASEAN plan from April last year would be one of the focuses of Thursday’s emergency talks at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has said.

A foreign ministry spokesperson said Marsudi would give a news briefing about the talks, in the afternoon.

The 10-country bloc was expected to discuss progress on the plan, which called for an end to violence; increased aid; and dialogue between the military and the anti-coup movement.

“The Myanmar junta doesn’t show any desire or concrete steps for implementation [of the plan],” an Indonesian foreign ministry official told AFP last week.

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing has not been invited to the ASEAN leaders’ summit in Cambodia next month – for the second year in a row – and Myanmar’s top diplomat Wunna Maung Lwin was excluded from ministerial talks in February and August.

A Thai foreign ministry official confirmed Myanmar did not send a representative to Thursday’s meeting.

Political prisoners have been executed in Myanmar in recent months and an air strike on a rebel-held concert in Kachin state on Sunday reportedly killed about 50 people.

The junta has said reports the air strike killed civilians were “rumors.”

The United States urged strong action at Thursday’s meeting.

Daniel Kritenbrink, the top US diplomat for East Asia, said the junta was leading “the complete destruction of all the progress made over the last decade” as the nation transitioned to democracy.

The envoy said Washington has “great respect” for ASEAN but said Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during talks in August, voiced “frustration” on the lack of progress on Myanmar.

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