Myanmar military chief makes first foreign trip since coup

The head of the Myanmar military is set to meet international leaders on his first known foreign trip since the army took power in a coup on February 1. General Min Aung Hlaing is to attend a summit of the South East Asian regional body Asean in Indonesia.

The military seized power after claiming there had been voter fraud in the 2020 General Election. Since then, more than 700 people have been killed in protests against the military government.

The talks in the Indonesian capital Jakarta will be the first international effort to address the crisis. Leaders and foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of SouthEast Asian Nations (Asean) will take part.

Despite the risk of massive refugee flows or even civil war, the 10 members of Asean have been divided over whether to even hold a meeting. There are clear signs of splits between governments that want to take action and those that don’t.

ASEAN appears divided along geographical lines, with the “mainland” countries – those physically closest to China – more opposed to intervention in Myanmar, while the “maritime” countries – those furthest from China – are more in favour of taking action.

Among the latter group, it is host Indonesia that has been pushing hardest for a collective response to the crisis. But persuading the other nine countries to take a unified stance will be just as much a challenge as persuading the Myanmar junta to de-escalate the crisis.

The UN special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, will be in Jakarta for meetings on the sidelines of the summit.