PHNOM PENH, Feb 15 (Reuters) – Cambodia said on Tuesday that Myanmar had confirmed its absence from this week’s meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a day after its ruling military criticised neighbours for insisting its generals are not invited.
“No representative from Myanmar, already confirmed,” Chum Sounry, foreign ministry spokesman of ASEAN chair Cambodia, said in a text message to Reuters when asked about Thursday’s foreign ministers’ retreat.
The military, which seized power in Myanmar a year ago, said late on Monday the continued actions of some ASEAN members in sidelining the army leadership and inviting only junior representatives were in conflict with the bloc’s principles.
Myanmar’s refusal to join is a setback for ASEAN’s internationally-backed diplomatic effort to end a conflict that has killed hundreds of civilians, displaced more than 300,000 people, and triggered an exodus of foreign firms.
Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia have urged Cambodia to exclude the Myanmar generals until they deliver on a commitment made last year to end hostilities and allow the 10-member regional bloc to facilitate a peace process.
ASEAN has since October invited a “non-political” Myanmar representative to meetings but the ruling military council has declined, arguing that it is the legitimate authority.
ASEAN has not formally recognised the military government, which has been the subject of sanctions imposed by the United States, Britain, and European Union, among others.
“Myanmar’s inability to participate or even designate a non-political representative … is inevitable since it contradicts the principles and practice of equal representation in ASEAN,” its foreign ministry said on Monday.
It said, however, it “will continue to extend constructive engagement” with all ASEAN members.