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ASEAN summit begins in Cambodia with focus on Myanmar

Leaders of Southeast Asian nations have begun an annual summit that is likely to be dominated by Myanmar’s escalating
violence and political gridlock, with increasingly frustrated
members of the group struggling to get the country’s junta to
comply with an agreed peace plan.

Cambodian Prime Minister and ASEAN host Hun Sen addressed Friday’s opening ceremony with a call for vigilance and wisdom
during times of economic and geopolitical turmoil.

“We are now at the most uncertain juncture; the lives of
millions in our region depend on our wisdom and foresight,” Hun
Sen said.

Leaders from the other nine countries in the bloc –
Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines,
Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – were present at the meeting in
Phnom Penh.

The bloc agreed in principle to admit East Timor as the group’s 11th member, it said in a statement.

US President Joe Biden will join the meeting on
Saturday, as will Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Japanese Prime
Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will also attend.

Several representatives of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) blamed Myanmar’s military rulers for failing to implement a peace plan agreed upon jointly last year, which includes ending hostilities and allowing access for a special envoy and aid.

ASEAN, which has barred junta leaders from its meetings since last year, repeated last week its commitment to the so-called five-point peace consensus, but some members have been pushing for a stronger stance.

US seeks ‘forceful’ Myanmar stance as ASEAN ministers meet

Internal divisions

Indonesia’s foreign minister said last week that the
junta, not ASEAN, was squarely responsible for a lack of
progress on the peace plan and that recommendations would be
made to leaders on strengthening its implementation.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr during a meeting
with Hun Sen on Thursday agreed while there needed to be
patience in dealing with the crisis, “we can still do more in terms
of engagement with Myanmar,” according to a post on Facebook by
the president’s press secretary.

The junta has blamed a lack of progress on the pandemic and
obstruction from armed resistance movements that it calls

James Crabtree, Executive Director of the International
Institute for Strategic Studies-Asia, said ASEAN was struggling
to cope with internal divisions over Myanmar and other issues.

“Whether it is Cambodia as chair now or Indonesia next year
those divisions aren’t going to go away, and that is likely to
continue to limit the bloc’s ability to pressure the junta in
Myanmar or respond smartly to rising great power competition,”
he said.

More executions will force ASEAN rethink on Myanmar ties: Special envoy

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