Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing presides over a military parade on Armed Forces Day in Naypyidaw, Myanmar on March 27.

Myanmar’s military junta said Saturday it was “extremely disappointed” with a decision by Southeast Asian foreign ministers to exclude its leader Min Aung Hlaing from an upcoming summit.

The decision to exclude Min Aung Hlaing from the October 26-28 summit was made during an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) emergency meeting late on Friday, according to a statement from the current chair of the group, Brunei.

Brunei said in the statement a non-political figure from Myanmar would be invited to the summit, after no consensus was reached for a political representative to attend.

Brunei’s Foreign Minister also said there had been “insufficient progress” on a roadmap to restore peace in Myanmar that the junta had agreed to with ASEAN in April, as well as “concerns” over the junta’s commitment to establish constructive dialog among all concerned parties.

“Some ASEAN member states recommended that ASEAN give space to Myanmar to restore its internal affairs and return to normalcy,” the statement said.

In response, Myanmar’s military-controlled foreign ministry said it was “extremely disappointed and strongly objected” to being excluded from the summit.

“The discussions and decision on Myanmar’s representation issue was done without consensus and was against the objectives of ASEAN,” the foreign ministry said.

“Ignoring the ASEAN’s good traditions of fostering unity in diversity and resolving differences through consultations and consensus would greatly affect the unity and centrality of the ASEAN,” it added.

A spokesman for Myanmar’s military government earlier blamed “foreign intervention” for the decision.

Singapore’s foreign ministry said Saturday it supported the exclusion of Myanmar’s junta, saying that it was a “difficult but necessary decision” to uphold ASEAN’s credibility.

“Singapore urges the Myanmar military authorities to cooperate with the special envoy to swiftly and fully implement the five-point consensus,” the ministry said in a statement.

The decision by ASEAN to exclude Myanmar’s junta marks a rare bold step for the consensus-driven bloc, which has traditionally favored a policy of engagement and non-interference.

It is also an unprecedented snub to Min Aung Hlaing, who led a coup against an elected civilian government in February and detained the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi over alleged election irregularities.

More than 1,000 civilians have been killed by Myanmar security forces with thousands of others arrested, according to the United Nations, amid a crackdown on strikes and protests which has derailed the country’s tentative democracy and prompted international condemnation.

The junta says those estimates of the death toll are exaggerated.

In August, Min Aung Hlaing declared himself Prime Minister of a newly formed caretaker government. During an address to the nation on August 1, he repeated a pledge to hold elections by 2023 and said his administration was ready to work with a future regional envoy on Myanmar.

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‘Justified downgrade’

ASEAN has faced increasing international pressure to take a tougher stand against Myanmar, having been criticized in the past for its ineffectiveness in dealing with leaders accused of rights abuses, subverting democracy and intimidating political opponents.

A US State Department official told reporters on Friday that it was “perfectly appropriate and in fact completely justified” for ASEAN to downgrade Myanmar’s participation at the coming summit.

Singapore in its statement urged Myanmar to cooperate with ASEAN’s envoy, Brunei’s second foreign affairs minister Erywan Yusof.

Erywan has delayed a long-planned visit to the country in recent weeks and has asked to meet all parties in Myanmar, including deposed leader Suu Kyi.

Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said this week Erywan would be welcome in Myanmar, but would not be allowed to meet Suu Kyi because she is charged with crimes.

Malaysia’s foreign minister said it would be up to the Myanmar junta to decide on an alternate representative to the summit.

“We never thought of removing Myanmar from ASEAN, we believe Myanmar has the same rights (as us),” foreign minister Saifuddin Abdullah told reporters according to Bernama state news agency.

“But the junta has not cooperated, so ASEAN must be strong in defending its credibility and integrity,” he added.