Philippines to replace Myanmar as ASEAN chair in 2026

Jakarta, Sep 5 (EFE).- Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr announced during the ASEAN leaders’ summit on Tuesday that his country was ready to chair the bloc in 2026 in the place of Myanmar, which has been led by a military junta since the 2021 coup.

“It is my pleasure to announce that the Philippines is ready to take the helm and chair ASEAN in 2026,” Marcos Jr said during his speech during the opening session of the 43rd leaders’ summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which consists of Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Brunei and Myanmar.

The announcement brings forwards the Philippines’ presidency by one year, and effectively excludes Myanmar from the rotation.

This marks another step in Naypyidaw’s exclusion from high-level ASEAN meetings since the coup on Feb. 1, 2021.

The head of the Myanmar military junta, Min Aung Hlaing, has not been invited to the meetings due to lack of progress on the five-point consensus, which includes an end to violence and dialog among all parties to the internal conflict and was agreed upon in April 2021 during an ASEAN meeting in Jakarta.

“In the interest of the ASEAN family, we must have the courage to self-evaluate, discuss problems openly and find solutions together. We need more tactical and extraordinary efforts to implement the five-point consensus,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Tuesday during a plenary session of the summit.

Countries of the block have appeared divided on the issue of the Myanmar conflict, especially over the limits of negotiating with the junta or how to apply political pressure, among other topics.

Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia had condemned the coup through a United Nations resolution in 2021 and are against talking with Naypyidaw, but Cambodia, Brunei, Laos and Thailand had abstained, and remain open to dialog.

In July, former Thai foreign minister Don Pramudwinai had met Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi at a prison in Naypyidaw, even though ASEAN attempts to send its delegate to meet the Nobel peace laureate have been repeatedly thwarted by the junta since 2021.

Widodo said that Indonesia had carried out more than 145 “very intensive engagements” with 70 stakeholders of the Myanmar conflict in the last nine months, although acknowledging the lack of significant progress with the military regime.

Although the junta is not represented in the summit in Jakarta, the head of Myanmar’s Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Khine Khine New, did participate in a panel discussion and said that issues of food security and new imports from Indonesia had been discussed. EFE


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