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Myanmar’s generals barred from Asean meetings, but junta sent an official to first bloc event in 2 years in Laos

Military-ruled Myanmar sent a bureaucrat to Monday’s meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers in Laos, Indonesia’s top diplomat said, adding the move was in line with Asean’s policy on the conflict-torn country’s attendance.

Myanmar’s ruling generals remain barred from key meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) over their failure to implement a peace plan agreed with the bloc two months after a 2021 coup that unleashed chaos in the country.

Asean has a policy of inviting Myanmar to send what it calls a “non-political” representative instead, but the junta has in the past two years declined, furious over what it calls Asean interference in its internal affairs.

The meeting comes just three days before the three-year anniversary of the coup, with the junta facing their most serious threat to power yet, as a coalition of armed ethnic groups make significant gains in the north.

Arriving at the opening ceremony, Marlar Than Htike refused to answer reporters’ questions about Myanmar’s presence at the meeting.

Earlier, she was seen talking with Thai Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara and East Timor counterpart Bendito dos Santos Freitas.

Laos has the chair of Asean for the first time since 2016, with all eyes on whether the small nation can move the needle on the long-running issue of Myanmar.

Asean’s diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis have been repeatedly stymied, with little progress made since 2021 when the bloc agreed on a five-point peace plan.

Although last year’s chair, Indonesia hailed “positive” talks with the main sides in November, when the junta was represented by “interlocutors” – according to a statement at the time.

However, friction between Asean members escalated over the former