Mon. Dec 6th, 2021

China meets with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for an annual summit amid reports that member states have rejected Beijing’s request to include Myanmar’s top general.

The virtual summit, hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, began Monday without a representative from Myanmar, according to the Reuters news agency.

This is the second time in a month that ASEAN excludes Myanmar’s Commander – in – Chief Min Aung Hlaing from a regional summit.

The general overthrew the elected government of the National League for Democracy (NLD) on February 1 and oversaw a brutal repression of peaceful protesters that plunged Myanmar into a civil war.

The 10-member ASEAN member led diplomatic efforts to end the crisis, and in April agreed with Min Aung Hlaing to an agreement that includes talks with ousted and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. But the military failed to abide by the agreement, and ASEAN retaliated by banning Min Aung Hlaing from his summit.

The decision is unprecedented for a group of countries that emphasize non-interference in domestic affairs and have their own poor records on democracy.

According to Reuters, it was Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei that rejected China’s bid to include Min Aung Hlaing at Monday’s China-ASEAN summit. An Indonesian diplomat told the news agency his position was that only a “non-political” figure should represent Myanmar at ASEAN summit.

Although Beijing apparently accepted the decision, the fact that it was pushing for the general’s inclusion stirred the geopolitical pot in the region.

Josh Kurlantzick, Southeast Asia Fellow of the Foreign Relations Council, said he did not see China’s support for Min Aung Hlaing’s inclusion in Monday’s summit as a sign that Beijing was warming up for military rule in Myanmar.

He described the military coup in Myanmar as “a disaster for Beijing for the most part”.

“I think China is very dissatisfied with the situation in Myanmar, and wants to work with ASEAN to try to restore Myanmar to something close, ultimately, to the status quo, which was much, much better for China,” he said.

The coup and the ensuing internal conflict caused instability that threatened Chinese business interests, caused a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and revived old civil wars in border regions.

Aaron Connelly, a Southeast Asia research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the fact that China had agreed to ASEAN’s refusal to allow Min Aung Hlaing was telling.

“If the junta’s international legitimacy was a priority for Beijing, I do not think we would see them accept this decision so easily,” he said.

Connelly noted that China had also accepted an agreement to allow Kyaw Moe Tun to continue as Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations, despite promising his loyalty to the overthrown government and by the army of high treason. has been charged.

“The cold between Min Aung Hlaing and Chinese leaders is deep, and it has not changed as fast as some expected – even though the two have otherwise taken a transactional approach to diplomacy,” he added.

‘So wrong’

However, anti-military figures in Myanmar were not impressed with China’s move, including Dr Sasa, a spokesman for the National Unity Government (NUG). Members of the NUG were appointed by lawmakers elected in the 2020 polls, which won the NLD in a landslide but the military refused to recognize.

Sasa said it was “so wrong” for China to invite Min Aung Hlaing to the summit.

“The military junta in Myanmar has no support from the people of ASEAN and has nothing good to offer China or ASEAN other than these terrible crises and chaos,” he said.

In contrast, Sasa said the people of Myanmar could bring “peace, prosperity and stability” to the region. “This is the choice between the people of Myanmar and the genocidal military junta in Myanmar,” he said.

Leading activist and protest leader Thinzar Shunlei Yi said China’s support for Min Aung Hlaing “clearly explains” that the local superpower “wants to influence ASEAN and the region in terms of politics, security or economy”. She praised ASEAN’s “historic decision” to exclude Min Aung Hlaing from last month’s summit, saying other countries should be inspired by this decision rather than undermine it.

“China must respect [the] “ASEAN summit and listen to the voices of the people of Myanmar,” she said.

The UK, for one, followed ASEAN’s lead for the forthcoming personal meeting between the G7 and ASEAN foreign ministers in London in December. The Myanmar army will not be allowed to attend in person, with only a “non-political representative” allowed via video.

Charles Santiago, a Malaysian lawmaker and president of the ASEAN parliamentarians for human rights, criticized China’s “attempt to gain the upper hand over” ASEAN in a statement. He accused the Myanmar army of trying to “gain legitimacy through China, a country that is notoriously lacking in respect for human rights”, and urged ASEAN states not to become “China’s puppets”.

But Santiago said the move offered ASEAN both a “significant challenge and opportunity”.

“Our leaders must keep the line and show the world a drastically new and stricter approach to Myanmar,” he said, calling for the regime to be banned from all meetings related to ASEAN, so that generals are blocked from entering the region. to travel. and for ASEAN to open formal dialogue with the NUG.

Santiago also told Al Jazeera he hopes ASEAN leaders will raise the issue of “continuous violation of Chinese vessels” in Southeast Asian waters. He accused China of “sending soldiers pretending to be fishermen”. A recent report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies claims that a Chinese maritime militia is patrolling the South China Sea, harassing other vessels and supporting China’s controversial territorial claims. The problem was a particular flashpoint for the Philippines and Malaysia.

Both Connelly and Kurlantzick also expect South China Sea issues to remain a priority for China in Southeast Asia. They said Beijing would seek to use its political leverage over Cambodia, ASEAN’s next president, to counter any criticism of its increasingly aggressive approach.

Connelly said Cambodia may still have “some room for maneuver” over the Myanmar crisis, but China will have “stronger opinions” on how Cambodia handles South China Sea disputes.

Kurlantzick said China would hope to use Cambodia to “sow discord within ASEAN” on the issue.

“Given Cambodia’s proximity to China, I think Beijing will use Cambodia [again] to stop any ASEAN consensus on the South China Sea, ”he said. Cambodia had previously blocked an ASEAN consensus in 2016, calling on China to respect an international decision that sided with the Philippines in a territorial dispute with China.

Kurlantzick said China will also seek to upgrade ties with ASEAN and present itself as a more reliable economic partner than the United States.

“I think China also clearly wants to upgrade strategic ties with ASEAN, to a comprehensive strategic partnership, and also wants to strongly advertise that, unlike the US, China is now involved in the extensive economic integration that is currently underway in Southeast Asia. is, “he said.

Source link

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *