The two-day 20th ASEAN Summit has begun in Cambodia, with North Korea’s planned satellite launch, Myanmar’s by-election and the South China Sea expected to top the agenda.
ASEAN heads of state have given Myanmar’s “orderly” election on Sunday a strong endorsement, however, not much further has been released thus far on the discussions on the rest of the issues. Leaders of Myanmar's military-backed civilian government allowed foreign observers for the 1 April poll for the first time, extending the invitation to ASEAN, as well as representatives from the European Union and United States. ASEAN’s secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan said in a statement that the vote will contribute to the “reintegration of Myanmar into the global community”. Myanmar is set to chair ASEAN in 2014.
With the rocket path of North Korea’s planned satellite launch set to the rocket path be between Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines, ASEAN states have expressed concern, with the Philippines making formal complaints with Pyongyang representatives at the UN, in China and in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, Cambodia, which will be chairing ASEAN this year, said it will focus on financial stability and narrowing regional development gaps. Doing so would require the Chiang Mai Initiative, a multilateral currency swap system, to double its funds from $120 billion to $140 billion. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen also said that Cambodia will focus on promoting an infrastructure investment fund and protecting migrant workers’ rights.
Another major topic that has traditionally been addressed at the summit is the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), which the association plans to set up by 2015. The AEC will serve as a single market for all ASEAN member nations, and is often compared to the concept of the EU. According to Mr. Pitsuwan, ASEAN has “less than three years left to get to the community”, and all member states have pledged to “redouble their efforts” towards its formation. In addition, Mr. Hun Sen spoke about importance of the AEC in “narrowing the development gap” between the association’s 10 member states.
Mr. Pitsuwan has said that various topics such as creating a regional mechanism to protect workers’ rights in the region, boosting cooperation on disaster management and enhancing food security through investment and greater cooperation will also be discussed over the course of the summit.
Report: ASEAN Economic Community vital to meet competition: PM Lee [TODAY, 3 April 2012]
Report: North Korea rocket, Burma poll top ASEAN summit agenda [BBC, 3 April 2012]
Report: ASEAN chairman Cambodia targets development gaps [Asia One, 3 April 2012]