Myanmar junta leader excluded from top summit

The leader of the military junta that has ruled Myanmar since its coup will not be invited to a top diplomatic summit for the region, and it represents a rare snub for the leader from the Southeast Asian country.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations - or ASEAN - agreed to the move at an emergency meeting on Friday (October 16).

The move is seen as unprecedented.

Myanmar's Army chief Min Aung Hlaing led the coup against the country's elected civilian government in February.

But the ASEAN bloc is consensus-driven, and Friday's decision marks a rare bold step for it. ASEAN traditionally favors a policy of engagement and non-interference.

The bloc says it will invite a non-political representative from Myanmar instead.

Singapore's foreign ministry said on Saturday the move to sideline Myanmar's military chief was a "difficult but necessary decision to uphold ASEAN’s credibility."

The statement went on to cite the lack of progress made on a roadmap to restore peace in Myanmar that the military had agreed to with the bloc in April.

ASEAN's current chair Brunei said some member states had received requests from Myanmar's National Unity Government, formed by opponents of the army, to attend the summit.

The bloc has faced increasing international pressure to take a tougher stand against Myanmar.

It was criticized in the past for its ineffectiveness in dealing with leaders accused of rights abuses, subverting democracy and intimidating political opponents.

More than 1,000 civilians have been killed by Myanmar security forces and thousands arrested, according to the United Nations, amid a crackdown on strikes and protests.

The military says those estimates of the death toll are exaggerated and blames "foreign interference" for their exclusion.

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