The maritime drills Myanmar joined to will start next week, Free Malaysia Today reports. The ASEAN countries decided to take part in these military exercises with the US in the Gulf of Thailand next week.
The maritime drills planned to be held from 2 to 6 September. Despite the US sanctions against a number of high-ranking officials of the Myanmar army, the military drills will take place, said Zaw Min Tun, a spokesman for the commander-in-chief’s office in Myanmar, on Wednesday.
Myanmar was invited to the event as a representative of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. ASEAN groups 10 member countries, namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
However, such news has shocked the prominent Rohingya activist Tun Khin who called the joint exercises “shocking”.
Myanmar official further stressed that the US sanctions are against individuals while the event is to manifest the coordination between the ASEAN and the US. The exercises will take place from September 2 to 6 as part of an agreement between ASEAN and US defence ministers struck in 2018.
ASEAN countries share maritime security priorities in the region
The drills come at a time of stepped-up US engagement in the region and tensions between China and several Southeast Asian nations over rival claims in the South China Sea.
The drills are starting in the Gulf of Thailand on Sept 2, focus on crime, piracy and security, and the travel bans were separate issues.
“The sanctions imposed were personal and this exercise is a coordination between Asean and the US,” he said.
The US State Department said in a media advisory that the drills with the 10 nations of the regional bloc provide an opportunity “to work with all members of Asean on shared maritime security priorities in the region.”
After announcing the military drills, one of the prominent Rohingya activist Tun Khin called them “shocking”.
“Just weeks after the USA designates the head of the military as responsible for gross human rights violations, they are working together with that same military.”