Myanmar Junta Invited to Meeting of ASEAN Defense Ministers, Military Exercises Next Month

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Jakarta, CNN Indonesia —

The Ministry of Defense of the Myanmar Junta received an invitation to attend a meeting between ASEAN Defense Ministers and joint US-Thailand military exercises.

The US and Thailand lead the ASEAN-Plus Working Group of Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) on maritime security and related activities.

The event will take place in Bangkok, Thailand, from 20 to 24 February 2023.

Defense Department spokesman Martin Meiners confirmed the Myanmar junta had accepted an invitation to attend military meetings and exercises.

“The US continues to stand with the international community, in response to the military coup in Myanmar, to urge the regime to end the violence, restore democracy including through the ADMM-Plus forum,” Meiner said, as quoted by Reuters, Wednesday (1/2).

Furthermore, Meiners said the invitation had been conveyed by the ASEAN Secretariat on behalf of the Thai and US co-chairs according to the regional grouping protocol.

“[Myanmar junta’s] presence in the ASEAN forum is determined by ASEAN member countries,” Meiners said, as quoted by Myanmar Now, Tuesday (31/1).

However, Meiners did not provide more detailed information whether the Myanmar Navy would attend the joint exercise or not.

Based on meeting documents seen by Myanmar Now, the joint exercise will cover three issues namely search, safety and piracy, human trafficking, and drug and weapons smuggling.

The invitation to the Myanmar junta comes after the US withdrew from ADMM-Plus on counterterrorism in July and December last year.

At that time, the US refused to attend because the Myanmar military used its position to spread propaganda and justify the atrocities committed against civilians.

The military meetings and exercises also emerged a few weeks after Indonesia became chairman of ASEAN.

Meanwhile, during this chairmanship period, Indonesian Minister of Defense Prabowo Subianto led ADMM.

In November 2022, Indonesian President Joko Widodo proposed banning the Myanmar junta from attending all meetings. This is because the junta has been reluctant to carry out the five consensus agreed upon by all ASEAN members in April 2021.

In the same month, the junta version of Myanmar’s Defense Minister, Mya Tun Oo, was not invited to the ADMM meeting for the first time.

Questioning Myanmar, ASEAN is not one voice. Some criticized, and others seemed to defend policies related to the country, one of which was Thailand.

Thailand also has its own way of approaching the junta.

Earlier this January, the Thai army chief met Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar’s military junta head, in Ngapali, Rakhine State.

One month earlier, Thailand hosted an informal “non-ASEAN” meeting that gave the junta’s foreign minister a rare opportunity to meet in person.

Source: CNN Indonesia