Myanmar crisis is focus of ASEAN summit, with Ukraine as guest

By Gaspar Ruiz-Canela

Bangkok, Nov 10 (EFE).- The crisis in Myanmar, with an increasingly isolated military junta, is one of the central issues of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit held between Friday and Sunday in Phnom Penh, with the assistance of Ukraine as a guest and United States President Joe Biden, among others.

After two years being held virtually due to the pandemic, the summit will bring together the bloc’s leaders in the Cambodian capital along with other leaders and representatives of countries such as China, Russia, India, Japan and South Korea, as well as the United Nations.

The threat of missile tests by North Korea, the sovereign disputes in the South China Sea and the commercial and diplomatic rivalry between Washington and Beijing will be some of the burning issues at the meeting.

Myanmar, immersed in a spiral of violence since the February 2021 coup, is perhaps the most pressing issue for ASEAN members at the summit, in which there is no representative of the military junta, since their presence is banned for its lack of commitment to resolve the crisis.

Since last year, ASEAN, chaired this year by Cambodia, has been pressuring the Myanmar generals to implement the so-called five-point consensus plan, which includes the cessation of violence, the start of negotiations and mediation of a special envoy of the group.

However, the head of the military junta, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, has ignored the plan he signed and has thrown himself into the arms of Russia, his main ally and weapons supplier.

Some ASEAN countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore have been highly critical of the military junta and the Malaysian government has called for relations to be formalized with the Myanmar National Unity Government, made up of politicians and pro-democracy activists.

However, there is reluctance within the bloc to take more drastic measures against Myanmar, especially from countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Next year, Indonesia will take over the presidency of ASEAN and is expected to take a tougher stance against the Myanmar junta, although it will be bound by the bloc’s principle of non-interference in the countries’ internal affairs.

The surprise this year is the presence at the summit of Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who met Wednesday with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has criticized the Russian invasion of Ukraine and recently spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Kuleba signed Thursday, together with his Cambodian counterpart, Prak Sokhonn, the Treaty of Cooperation and Friendship between Ukraine and the Southeast Asian bloc, which enshrines principles such as mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.

During the summit, the Ukrainian president is also expected to deliver a speech via video conference.

Cambodia offered last week to facilitate a meeting between Russia and Ukraine, but received no response.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has declined to attend the summit, which will be attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. EFE


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