Myanmar’s military-appointed defense minister has been disinvited from Southeast Asia’s top meeting of defense chiefs by host nation Cambodia, a senior U.S. defense official said, as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) appears to be increasingly aligned around efforts to diplomatically isolate the military regime that took power in a coup last year.
The move, which helps U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin avoid the awkwardness of bumping into Gen. Mya Tun Oo, a senior junta official, at the ASEAN meeting, comes just days after top Indonesian officials called out the junta for worsening the crisis in the war-torn country. It’s also a subtle shift for Cambodia, which has historically shielded countries like China and Myanmar from criticism at ASEAN summits.
“Until we see Myanmar actually follow through on the commitments that it has made to other countries in the region to bring about a peaceful resolution to the violence that is ongoing there, they will not be showing up at a ministerial level at these kinds of meetings,” said the senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity based on ground rules set by the U.S. Defense Department. “That is a step that ASEAN countries have taken to … take a principled stance on the fact that what’s going on in Myanmar is not acceptable, and it can’t be business as usual.”