Association of Southeast Asian Nations
Bangladesh has sought more coordinated and proactive support from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for persuading Myanmar to create a congenial situation for an early, safe and dignified repatriation of its more than 1.1 million nationals from the country. Bangladesh also sought the support of Brunei Darussalam in expediting its bid to be a sectoral dialogue partner (SDP) of ASEAN. A courtesy meeting was held between Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and Second Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brunei Haji Erywan bin Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Haji Mohd Yusof in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday. They discussed the issues of mutual interest, reasserting their commitment to further strengthening their excellent bilateral ties. Read: Bangladesh seeks EU’s role for early repatriation of Rohingyas The two countries agreed to accelerate cooperation in trade, investment, agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries, energy, health, pharmaceuticals, connectivity, ICT, tourism, halal trade, human resources development, youth and cultural exchanges. While discussing the need for high-level visits to further cement the bilateral relations, Yusof expressed their keenness on arranging a Bangladesh visit for the sultan of Brunei which got postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic. Momen welcomed the proposal and both ministers agreed to take all necessary preparations. The Bangladesh foreign minister is now on a three-day visit to Cambodia to attend the 29th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) ministerial meeting.
As the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meet in Phnom Penh this week, they should take the opportunity to reach an agreement on strong and coordinated measures to put pressure on Myanmar’s military junta, parliamentarians from the region have urged. Over fifteen months after ASEAN members and the chief of the military junta, General Min Aung Hlaing, signed a Five-Point Consensus to address the political and humanitarian crisis triggered by the illegal coup d’état on 1 February 2021, the situation in Myanmar has continued to deteriorate. The self-styled State Administration Council (SAC) is still hijacking humanitarian assistance, has not taken steps towards initiating a political dialogue, and continues waging a brutal campaign of repression against the population at large in order to stamp out widespread opposition to military rule. “ASEAN member states must recognize that the Myanmar military has become a criminal organisation that is holding hostage the whole of the country’s population,” said Eva Sundari, former member of the House of Representatives in Indonesia and Board Member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR). Read: Myanmar violence, Ukraine war loom over ASEAN meetings ASEAN’s Foreign Ministers are meeting less than two weeks after the Junta executed four political prisoners sentenced to death, Phyo Zeya Thaw, former lawmaker for the National League for Democracy (NLD); the prominent activist Kyaw Min Yu, widely known as ‘Ko Jimmy’; Aung Thura Zaw; and Hla Myo Aung. Those are the first known judicial executions in Myanmar since 1988, according to Amnesty International, and were carried out secretly, after trials conducted by military tribunals without any respect for due process, as APHR has denounced. The junta went on with the executions despite international pleas not to carry them out. Even Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of Cambodia, and current ASEAN Chair, made a plea for the prisoners to be spared, despite the leniency that his government has shown towards the junta this year. As ASEAN Chair, Cambodia has undone a great deal of the work that other member states had been doing to isolate the Myanmar generals, thus granting them legitimacy they do not deserve. “After those barbaric executions, Cambodia should stop pandering to the generals, and ASEAN foreign ministers should make their meeting in Phnom Penh a turning point to lift the Myanmar people out of their suffering. The junta believes it can get away with its crimes and ignore the international condemnation because up to now it has not led to any concrete consequences,” said Sundari. ASEAN should put in place enforcement mechanisms in order for the Five Point Consensus to work. Starting with imposing targeted sanctions and travel bans in the region on Min Aung Hlaing and his men. The regional group should also publicly engage and recognize the National Unity Government of Myanmar (NUG), which is leading the pro-democracy forces and represents the Myanmar people’s aspirations for democracy, as well as ethnic organisations.
Myanmar will not participate in this week’s meetings in Cambodia of foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, spurning an invitation to send a non-political representative instead of its chief diplomat, its government said Monday. Cambodia, the current ASEAN chair, said earlier this month that members of the regional group had failed to reach a consensus on inviting Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin to its meetings on Thursday and Friday in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. Wunna Maung Lwin was appointed foreign minister after the military seized power in Myanmar last year, ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The decision to restrict Myanmar’s participation reflected a disagreement over Myanmar’s lack of cooperation in implementing measures agreed upon by the 10-member group last year to help ease that country’s violent political crisis following the army’s takeover. The head of Myanmar’s military government, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, was not invited to last October’s virtual meeting of ASEAN leaders because of the disagreement. That rebuke was issued shortly after Myanmar declined to let an ASEAN special envoy meet with Suu Kyi, who has been in detention since the military took power. Also read: One year into Myanmar coup: Stronger course of int’l action needed “Despite the efforts made by the ASEAN chair and Myanmar to promote cooperation in ASEAN, it is regrettable to see the return of the decision made last year which Myanmar in principle is unable to accept,” Myanmar’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement Monday night. “In this regard, Myanmar’s inability to participate or even designate a non-political representative ... is inevitable since it contradicts the principles and practice of equal representation in ASEAN.” ASEAN was chaired by Brunei when it snubbed Min Aung Hlaing, but under its annual rotation system, Cambodia now heads the group. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has said he believes it is important that Myanmar attend the next summit meeting. Hun Sen traveled to Myanmar in January, becoming the first foreign leader to visit since the military takeover. He has repeatedly declared his interest in resolving the impasse between ASEAN and Myanmar. Japan’s foreign minister met in Tokyo on Monday with Hun Sen’s son and agreed to cooperate in dealing with the situation in Myanmar. Hun Manet, who heads Cambodia’s army and is Hun Sen’s favored successor, accompanied his father during his visit to Myanmar. Japan has taken a softer line on Myanmar’s military than Western nations that have sanctioned the generals. But in a sign that attitudes in Japan are mixed, Japanese brewery Kirin Holdings announced on Monday that it has decided to withdraw from its business in Myanmar and terminate its joint venture with a military-linked partner. Cambodia’s Chum Sounry said the failure to reach a consensus about inviting Myanmar to this week’s foreign minister’s meeting was due to “little progress in carrying out the ASEAN’s 5-Point Consensus,” agreed to by all the group’s members, including Myanmar. ASEAN leaders at a special meeting last April issued a statement expressing a consensus calling for the immediate cessation of violence, a dialogue among all concerned parties, mediation by an ASEAN special envoy, provision of humanitarian aid through ASEAN channels, and a visit to Myanmar by the special envoy to meet all concerned parties. Myanmar has not rejected the consensus but has done little to implement it. Also read: Dozens arrested to suppress protests on Myanmar anniversary Myanmar’s military council has also continued its harsh military actions against areas of the country where it faces a low-level insurgency, as well as its relentless effort to prosecute Suu Kyi to remove her from political life. Suu Kyi went on trial on Monday on election fraud charges, the latest in a series of criminal prosecutions by the military-run government in which she has already been sentenced to six years in prison. The army said it seized power because of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 general election, an allegation not corroborated by independent election observers. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won the election by a landslide, while the military-backed party did poorly. The military’s takeover prompted widespread peaceful protests and civil disobedience that security forces suppressed with lethal force. About 1,500 civilians have been killed, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Some opponents of the military have turned to armed resistance in response. Suu Kyi, 76, has faced a raft of charges since she was taken into custody. Her supporters and human rights groups say the cases against her are baseless.
Southeast Asian leaders are meeting this week for their annual summit where Myanmar’s top general, whose forces seized power in February and shattered one of Asia’s most phenomenal democratic transitions, has been shut out for refusing to take steps to end the deadly violence. Myanmar defiantly protested the exclusion of Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, who currently heads its government and ruling military council, from the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Brunei, which currently leads the 10-nation bloc, will host the three-day meetings starting Tuesday by video due to coronavirus concerns. The talks will be joined by President Joe Biden and the leaders of China and Russia, and are expected to spotlight Myanmar’s worsening crisis and the pandemic as well as security and economic issues. ASEAN’s unprecedented sanctioning of Myanmar strayed from its bedrock principles of non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs and deciding by consensus, meaning just one member can effectively shoot down a group decision. Myanmar cited the violation of those principles enshrined in the group’s charter in rejecting the decision to bar its military leader from the summit. Read:ASEAN downgrades Myanmar presence in summit in major rebuke But the regional group has few other options as the general’s intransigence further risked tainting its image as a diplomatic refuge for some of the most intractable tyrants in Asia. A senior ASEAN diplomat, who joined an Oct. 15 emergency meeting where the foreign ministers decided to rebuff Myanmar, said those two principles bind but “will not paralyze” the bloc. The diplomat called ASEAN’s more forceful response “a paradigm shift” but added its conservative principles would likely stay. “In serious cases like this, when the integrity and credibility of ASEAN is at stake, ASEAN member states or even the leaders and the ministers have that latitude to act,” said the diplomat, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to discuss the issues publicly. Instead of Myanmar’s top general, the country’s highest-ranking veteran diplomat, Chan Aye, was invited to the summit as the country’s “non-political” representative, the diplomat said. It remains unclear if Chan Aye will attend. Myanmar’s military-appointed foreign minister joined the online emergency meeting two weeks ago. It was held in a calm manner, although some ministers bluntly expressed their opposition to the Feb. 1 military takeover that ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, which overwhelmingly won last November’s vote. Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan declared that his government still recognizes Suu Kyi and ousted President Win Myint, both of whom have been detained, as Myanmar’s legitimate leaders, according to the diplomat. Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, a staunch critic of the military’s seizure of power, told his ASEAN counterparts that the principle of non-interference cannot be used “as a shield to avoid issues being addressed” given that the Myanmar crisis has alarmed the region. In a separate online forum last week, he suggested officials and others “do some soul-searching” for ASEAN “on the possibility of moving away from the principle of non-interference toward `constructive engagement’ or `non-indifference.’” ASEAN has been under intense international pressure to take steps to help end the violence that has left an estimated 1,100 civilians dead since the army took power and locked up Suu Kyi and others, igniting widespread peaceful protests and armed resistance. U.N. special envoy Christine Schraner Burgener warned last week that Myanmar “will go in the direction of a failed state” if violent conflicts between the military, civilians and ethnic minorities spiral out of control and the democratic setback was not resolved peacefully. Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide victory in 2015 after more than five decades of military rule. But the military remained powerful and contested her National League for Democracy party’s win in last November elections as fraudulent. Read: Urgent action needed to end catastrophe in Myanmar: UN report ASEAN has not recognized the military leadership although Myanmar remains a member. The group “must take a bolder step to speak up against non-democratic overthrow of democratically elected government and crimes against humanity against the Myanmar people,” said Alexander Arifianto, an Indonesian expert on regional politics at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. “ASEAN needs to reform its decision-making process.” ASEAN leaders agreed on a five-point contingency plan in an emergency meeting in April in Indonesia that was attended by Min Aung Hlaing. They called for an immediate end to the violence and the start of a dialogue to be mediated by a special ASEAN envoy, who should be allowed to meet all parties. But the military later repeatedly refused to allow the envoy to meet Suu Kyi and other political detainees in an impasse that is testing the regional bloc. ASEAN admitted Myanmar in 1997 despite intense opposition from the U.S. and European countries, which then cited its military junta’s record of suppressing democracy and human rights. The other members of the bloc are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The UK has agreed a new partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The partnership, which is the first ASEAN has agreed in 25 years, will lead to closer cooperation between the UK and the region on a range of issues such as trade, investment, climate change, the environment, science and technology, and education. UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will join a virtual ceremony with ASEAN Foreign Ministers where they will welcome the UK as an ASEAN ‘Dialogue Partner’. Also read: Bangladesh keen to expand ties with Asean countries: FS Since the UK submitted its application to become a Dialogue Partner in June 2020, the Foreign Secretary has attended two UK-ASEAN Ministerial Meetings and hosted the ASEAN Chair at the G7 Foreign & Development Ministers meeting in May. ASEAN is an influential group of ten member countries in the Indo-Pacific. By becoming a Dialogue Partner the UK will formalise its relations with the group - including through attending annual Foreign and Economic Ministers meetings along with other Ministerial engagements. Dialogue Partner status puts the UK at the heart of the Indo-Pacific. The UK will work with ASEAN and its members on key shared challenges such as maritime security and transnational crime, boost our economies through trade, and strengthen our cooperation on issues such COVID-19 and climate change. Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab said: “I am delighted that the UK has, today, formally become a Dialogue Partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc – the first new country in 25 years.” “This is a landmark moment in the UK’s tilt towards the Indo Pacific. Our closer ties with ASEAN will help create green jobs, reinforce our security cooperation, promote tech and science partnerships, and safeguard key pillars of international law like the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.” The new agreement will also help the UK to deepen economic links with ASEAN, which has a combined GDP of $3.2 trillion. Total trade between the UK and ASEAN was £32.3 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2021 with huge potential to boost this trade, creating jobs at home. International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss said this is great news and shows Global Britain in action, forging stronger relationships around the world as an independent trading nation. Also read: Greater efforts sought from envoys to enhance trade with Asean "Along with CPTPP accession and deals with countries like Singapore and Vietnam, this will help unlock opportunities for British businesses in a high-growth region of more than 650 million people, allowing them to expand and create jobs across the UK.
President Donald Trump skipped summits with his Asian counterparts for the third year in a row on Saturday, even as rival China is set to expand its influence with a massive free trade deal in the region.
The Special Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on the COVID-19 Response kicked off on Tuesday morning in videoconferencing format to affirm their commitment to combating the global pandemic, ensuring peaceful life of people and sustainable development of countries in the region.