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Myanmar’s Seat Empty as VP Harris Speaks to ASEAN Leaders 

JAKARTA, INDONESIA — A chair with Myanmar’s flag was left empty as Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with Southeast Asian leaders during the U.S.-ASEAN, or Association of Southeast Asian Nations, summit in Jakarta hosted by outgoing chair Indonesia.

“The United States will continue to press the regime to end the horrific violence to release all those unjustly detained and to reestablish Myanmar’s path to inclusive democracy,” Harris said at the opening of the summit Wednesday.

“And we will continue to support ASEAN’s five-point consensus,” she added, referring to the group’s 2021 demands on the crisis triggered by the February 2021 military coup, which include immediate cessation of violence and constructive dialogue facilitated by ASEAN.

Last year, ASEAN agreed to bar Myanmar’s ruling generals from meetings until they make progress to address the crisis. An empty Myanmar chair has been held as a symbol to urge the country to return to democracy.

The group announced earlier this week they are barring Myanmar from its turn as chair in 2026, as they blame the ongoing bloodshed on the country’s junta. The Philippines will take ASEAN’s helm instead.

ASEAN’s statement demonstrates that the group is more united on Myanmar than some people thought, said Aaron Connelly, research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“It makes clear that the bloc blames the military for the violence, sustains a de facto suspension of the junta’s leaders from ASEAN meetings, and forces the junta to give up its turn chairing the organization until the violence stops,” he told VOA.

Source : VOA News