Myanmar has intensified its bid to take on the chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014. It has announced it wants ASEAN leaders to make a decision at the upcoming ASEAN Summit in Jakarta on May 7-8 so it will have time to prepare for the year-long chair.
Report: Burma Seeking to be Chair of Asean in 2014 by Kavi Chongkittavorn [Irrawaddy, 18 April 2011]
One of President Thein Sein’s first actions as leader of the new
civilian government which was installed at the end of 2010 was to submit
a letter to ASEAN stating its readiness to become chair in 2014.
This has raised concerns in the international community about Myanmar's fitness to lead the 10-member regional grouping. The US has said it would be unwilling to work with ASEAN with Myanmar as its
Report: US Presses ASEAN to Reject Burma by Lalit K Jha [Irrawaddy, 20 April 2011]
However, the broader tack that the US and the EU have taken towards Myanmar recently has been one of increased engagement. The EU has suspended a freeze on assets and travel restrictions for 4 high-ranking Myanmar government ministers and 18 vice-ministers, including foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin.
The Financial Times reacted to the announcement with measured support, arguing there is a case for eventually reexamining the west’s sanctions \policy, but that it is still too early to do so. The generals should give more ground, it argues, for example, by releasing some of the more than 2,200 political prisoners.
Editorial: Striking the right note on Burma (subscription) [Financial Times, 17 Apr 2011]
The US has recently appointed Derek Mitchell as a special envoy to Myanmar. Ms Aung San Suu Kyi has welcomed the US envoy nomination, saying that she hopes Mr Mitchell will be able to help usher in true democratic reforms.
Report: US appoints Burma special envoy Derek Mitchell [BBC, 15 Apr 2011]
In an op-ed at the Huffington Post, the Asia Society's Suzanne DiMaggio argues that the appointment is a positive step at a good time.
Analysis: The Time Is Right To Appoint a U.S. Envoy to Burma [Huffington Post, 20 Apr 2011]