Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, who led the military takeover that sparked turmoil in Myanmar, arrived in Jakarta on Saturday for a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders seeking to forge a path to end violence in the country.
The gathering of leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta is the first coordinated international effort to ease the crisis in Myanmar, an impoverished country that neighbors China, India and Thailand. Myanmar is part of the 10-nation ASEAN. With participants attending in person despite the pandemic, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said on Friday the summit reflected the “deep concern about the situation in Myanmar and ASEAN’s determination to help Myanmar get out of this delicate situation.”
It’s unusual for the leader of a military government in Myanmar to attend an ASEAN summit — usually the country has been represented by a lower-ranked officer or a civilian. Min Aung Hlaing was seen disembarking after arriving on a special flight from Naypyitaw, the Myanmar capital, according to footage on the official video channel of Indonesia’s presidential palace. Diplomats and government officials who asked not to be named said many ASEAN leaders want a commitment from Min Aung Hlaing to restrain his security forces, who monitors say have killed 745 people since a mass civil disobedience movement emerged to challenge his February 1 coup against the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
“This is what Myanmar must avoid: geographical, political, social and national disintegration into warring ethnic parts,” said Philippine Foreign Secretary Teddy Locsin on Twitter. “Myanmar on its own must find peace again.” Min Aung Hlaing, on his first foreign trip since the coup, will address the summit later on Saturday along with each of the participants before more informal discussions begin, said three sources familiar with procedures. The summit will be held in a “retreat” format, with leaders sitting in a circle and only one or two officials assisting each one, said Usana Berananda, a Thai Foreign Ministry official.