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Indonesia: Myanmar has support for Asean summit bid

/ 06:45 PM November 08, 2011

JAKARTA—Indonesia’s foreign minister said Tuesday that Asean leaders had expressed tremendous support for Myanmar’s bid to host the regional bloc’s summit in 2014.

“The overwhelming sense that I obtained during the course of the May summit of Asean and the Asean foreign ministers’ meeting in July… was positive,” Marty Natalegawa told reporters.

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He said it was especially significant that a statement at the bloc’s last summit in July had called on members to “positively consider Myanmar’s application” to host the summit.

Myanmar, which has a nominally civilian leadership dominated by former generals, wants to take the chair of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2014, when communist Laos was due to take the post.

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Natalegawa, who met Myanmar’s President Thein Sein and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a visit last week to Myanmar, said he had been encouraged by recent political reforms there.

“If you asked me whether we would back Myanmar or not (at the Bali summit next week) I am afraid I could not give you a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer,” Natalegawa said.

“But if I were asked how we feel about that in November compared to how we felt in July and how we felt in May, we feel more positive about it, because I have seen this trajectory of positive developments.”

Hopes of political change in Myanmar have increased recently, with efforts by the new government to reach out to opponents including Suu Kyi and the suspension of construction of an unpopular Chinese-backed mega dam.

Myanmar has been a source of embarrassment for Asean’s more democratic states, overshadowing other problem members such as communist Vietnam and Laos, which have significant human rights issues of their own.

As chair of Asean, Myanmar would be required to speak on behalf of the bloc and host scores of meetings including the East Asia Summit which includes the United States.

Every year the Asean conference is held in conjunction with the East Asia Summit, where next week Barack Obama will become the first US president to officially participate at the talks in Bali.

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The United States and European Union have imposed broad sanctions against Myanmar for alleged human rights abuses.

Allowing Myanmar to host an Asean summit would mean that, to attend the EAS summit, a US president would have to travel to a country whose government Washington strongly opposes.

Asean also includes Brunei, Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

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TAGS: ASEAN, Myanmar, Politics
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