YANGON: Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing will join a special ASEAN summit next week, the Thai foreign ministry said Saturday, his first official trip since masterminding a coup which deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The February 1 putsch triggered a massive uprising, bringing hundreds of thousands of protesters to the streets to demand a return to democracy, while civil servants have boycotted work in a bid to shutter the junta's administration.
The military has deployed lethal force to quell the anti-coup movement, killing more than 720 people and detaining some 3,100 activists, journalists and dissidents, according to a local monitoring group. The international community has largely condemned the generals for use of force against unarmed civilians - imposing targeted sanctions against top military brass, their families and army-linked businesses. But regional leaders have sought to open communications with the regime, and on Saturday Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that a summit of Southeast Asian leaders in Jakarta on Myanmar's situation will include the senior general.
"Several leaders have confirmed their attendance including Myanmar's MAH (Min Aung Hlaing)," said spokesman Tanee Sangrat in a message to reporters.
The April 24 meeting of the 10-country bloc of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is expected to address the ongoing crisis in post-coup Myanmar. The announcement drew dismay from activists, who have long beseeched foreign leaders not to recognise the junta. "#ASEAN do not legitimize the Myanmar Military junta as a government by inviting MAH to attend the summit," said prominent activist Wai Wai Nu on Twitter. "(The) Junta is illegitimate and illegal."
By Saturday evening, #ASEANrejectSAC was among the top-trending on Myanmar's twitter.
The military has consistently justified the putsch by alleging widespread fraud in November's elections, which Suu Kyi's party won in a landslide.
They claim power will be handed back to a civilian administration after elections are held in about a year - though they recently extended the timeline to a two-year period.