Myanmar leader to skip ASEAN summit in Philippines
Manila, Dec 2: Myanmar's military leader will not attend an annual summit of Southeast Asian countries later this month because he is focusing on drafting a new constitution, a Philippines foreign affairs official said today.
General Than Shwe will send Prime Minister Soe Win to represent him at the gathering on December 11 in the central Philippines, according to a letter sent to the host, said the official, who declined to be named.
Key players in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a grouping known for its emphasis on consensus and non-interference in domestic affairs, have shown rare displeasure in recent years at Myanmar's slow pace of reform.
Than Shwe, who heads Myanmar's ruling junta, missed last year's ASEAN summit, which was chaired by Malaysia, one of his harshest critics.
Myanmar's military rulers, under international pressure about their repressive regime, resumed long drawn out talks on a new constitution in October.
A charter is the first stage in Myanmar's seven-step ''road map to democracy'' but the junta refuses to set a timetable for the ''road map'' announced in 2003.
Military generals have ruled Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, since 1962 and refuse to accept the 1990 election victory of a democratic party led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who is kept under house arrest.
Besides Myanmar and the Philippines, ASEAN includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.