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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

ASEAN condemns lack of Myanmar peace progress

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin (R) after attending events at the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh on Friday. - AFP
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin (R) after attending events at the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh on Friday. - AFP

PHNOM PENH: Southeast Asian ministers on Friday condemned the lack of progress on a crisis resolution plan for coup-hit Myanmar, demanding the junta take action before a regional summit later this year.


Myanmar has been in chaos since a putsch in February last year, and the death toll from the military's brutal crackdown on dissent has passed 2,100, according to a local monitoring group.


Anger is growing among some Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members at the generals' stonewalling, particularly after the execution last month of four prisoners -- including two prominent pro-democracy figures.


The 10-member bloc -- spearheading so far fruitless efforts to resolve the turmoil -- issued a joint statement after foreign minister talks in Phnom Penh.


The ministers said they were "deeply disappointed by the limited progress in and lack of commitment of the Naypyidaw authorities to the timely and complete implementation of the five point consensus".


And in a veiled warning to Myanmar's junta, the statement -- referencing Article 20 of the ASEAN charter -- noted the leaders' meeting later this year could still take action over "non-compliance".


ASEAN decisions are usually taken by consensus, but Article 20 allows a summit to override this principle.


Myanmar's top diplomat, Wunna Maung Lwin, was not invited to Phnom Penh and was also left out of a foreign ministers' retreat in February, while junta leader Min Aung Hlaing was snubbed at a leaders summit last year.


BLINKEN MEETING


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met a Cambodian opposition leader facing treason charges during a visit to Phnom Penh on Friday, expressing concern about the kingdom's eroding democracy ahead of elections next year.


One of the world's longest-serving leaders, Prime Minister Hun Sen has ruled Cambodia for more than 37 years. In 2018 his party won every seat in a national election.


And in June, a Phnom Penh court convicted about 60 opposition figures -- including dual US-Cambodian citizen Theary Seng -- in a mass treason trial that rights groups have condemned as politically motivated.


Blinken said he directly expressed concerns about the kingdom's ailing democracy during talks with Hun Sen, while visiting the Cambodian capital for the Association of South East Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers' meeting.


Allowing broader participation in the political system would strengthen the country, the secretary of state told reporters on Friday. - AFP


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