Myanmar invited to Asian military meeting co-chaired by US | Military news

Next month’s meeting focuses on maritime security and will include exercises to combat people, drug and arms smuggling.

Myanmar’s military, which seized power in a coup two years ago, has been invited to participate in a regional military meeting co-chaired by Thailand and the United States.

A five-day meeting of the ASEAN Defense Ministers Plus (ADMM-Plus) Working Group of Maritime Security Experts is scheduled to begin on February 20 and will include “tabletop” exercises.

Myanmar Now, an independent Myanmar-focused online publication that reported on the call on Monday, said it had received leaked documents showing the theoretical exercises were designed to tackle search and rescue, piracy and drug, weapons and people smuggling.

Lt. Col. Martin Meiners, a spokesman for the US Department of Defense, told Myanmar Now that Myanmar’s military was called in according to ASEAN protocols.

“Attendance at ASEAN forums is determined by ASEAN member states,” Meiners told the newspaper.

In addition to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the meeting will include representatives of dialogue partners Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the US.

ASEAN is grappling with how to deal with Myanmar amid the ruling generals’ failure to deliver on a plan to end violence sparked by a February 1, 2021 coup and create conditions for dialogue.

The association has banned senior Myanmar military officials from its main meetings, but after two years of bloodshed, some member countries are calling on ASEAN to cooperate with the National Unity Government (NUG), which was installed by elected politicians who were ousted by generals when they took power.

There had been hopes that Indonesia, which took over the rotating chairmanship from Cambodia for 2023, would take a tougher stance towards Myanmar.

Jakarta has been in favor of cooperation with the NUG, and in November its president, Joko Widodo, called for an extension of the ban on generals outside major ASEAN summits.

The military, led by senior general Min Aung Hlaing, said it would hold elections by August this year.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s elected leader and most popular politician, has been sentenced to more than 30 years in prison after a series of secret trials.

Myanmar joined ASEAN in 1997 under the previous military regime.

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