Myanmar junta sends diplomat to ASEAN talks in Laos

A senior diplomat from Myanmar has attended a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It's an about-face for the junta, which has been boycotting major events held by the bloc for over two years, but is also grappling with an insurgency.

On Monday, ASEAN foreign ministers met in Laos, which is chairing the bloc this year. A senior bureaucrat with Myanmar's foreign ministry was there. ASEAN has barred the military from sending political representatives to its meetings.

During the talks, ASEAN ministers urged Myanmar to implement the bloc's peace plan, known as the Five-Point Consensus, which calls for an immediate end to violence in the country.

In a news conference after the talks, Laotian Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith described Myanmar's delegate as a "nonpolitical representative" and said her participation was a "positive sign".

He said that the more ASEAN engages with Myanmar, the deeper the understanding there will be about the real situation in Myanmar, not only among ASEAN member states, but also in the international community.

Sources in Myanmar's foreign ministry told NHK that it intends to send delegates to upcoming key meetings.

Nearly three years after it launched a coup, the junta looks to be struggling to maintain control, with armed ethnic minority groups having launched waves of attacks since last October.

That's thought to be a factor behind Myanmar's appearance at the meeting, which is widely seen as a concession to ASEAN.