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If ASEAN cannot pull Myanmar in line, how can it progress?

Democracy remains tough goal, as Southeast Asian bloc faces existential risk

ASEAN wants Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the Myanmar military, right, to allow ousted democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi to meet with a representative from the bloc. (Nikkei montage/Shinya Sawai/Ken Kobayashi/Reuters)

BANGKOK -- For the first time in 45 years, a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations did not turn up for the bloc's annual summit in late October. The meeting convened online due to the pandemic but Myanmar's absence was marked simply by a banner stating the country's name.

ASEAN had already convened a special summit in April to try to help Myanmar resolve the turmoil in the country following the military coup in February. Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the military that had seized power from the National League for Democracy, attended that meeting during which participants reached agreement on five points, including sending a special envoy representing the ASEAN chair to Myanmar to mediate between political parties in the country.

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