Lanka invites foreign minister of Myanmar junta for BIMSTEC meet

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Colombo, Mar 10 (PTI) Sri Lanka has invited the new foreign minister of Myanmar's junta to the BIMSTEC ministerial meeting next month, triggering a controversy that it is endorsing the military coup in the Southeast Asian nation.

Sri Lanka has neither endorsed or rejected the recognition of the military regime which topped Myanmar's elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi's government on February 1, just as it was to start its second term.

The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in the Southeast Asian nation after five decades of military rule.

In a controversial move, Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena invited the military regime's foreign minister, Wunna Maung Lwin, for a virtual meeting of the foreign ministers of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand under the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) to be held on April 1.

'The 17th ministerial meeting will greatly benefit from your Excellency's valued participation, and I look forward to our close engagement over the course of the meeting,' Gunawardena says in the letter addressed to the military regime's foreign minister.

The invitation has triggered accusations that Sri Lanka is endorsing the coup. Several Myanmar activists bombarded the Sri Lankan foreign ministry's social media accounts to slam the decision.

There has been no formal international recognition of the military regime.

Myanmar has been roiled by protests and other acts of civil disobedience since the last month's coup. Around 2,000 people have been arrested and at least 60 protesters have been killed since the military takeover. PTI CORR PMS AKJ PMS