The decision by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations not to invite Myanmar’s military leader to two related summits in Brunei on 26–28 October raises an intriguing question: if pushed far enough, would the junta in Naypyidaw take Myanmar out of the regional grouping?

Myanmar’s military rulers thought long and hard before joining ASEAN in 1997. To do so was seen as a break with the country’s long-held and deeply-felt attachment to independence and strict neutrality in foreign affairs. ASEAN was not allied with any major power bloc, and undertook not to interfere in its members’ internal affairs, but even so, membership would compromise Myanmar’s traditional stance.

At the time, a conservative faction of the ruling military council claimed that ASEAN membership offered nothing of significant value, and would expose Myanmar to foreign pressures. However, a more progressive faction successfully argued that ASEAN could provide a buffer between the regime and its foreign critics. It would also help Myanmar to balance its problematic relationship with China.

Please click here to read the full article “If pushed far enough, would Myanmar leave ASEAN? published by The Interpreter, written by Griffith Asia Institute Adjunct Professor Andrew Selth.