11/08/2022, 17.06
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Southeast Asia at the crossroads of international politics

by Steve Suwannarat

Over the next two weeks, scores of heads of state and governments will attend the G-20, APEC and ASEAN meetings, all scheduled in the region. Indonesia, Thailand, and Cambodia are the host countries. Conflicts in Ukraine and Myanmar will be key issues.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – For the next two weeks, Southeast Asia will host high-level events. At the top of the list is the G-20 in Bali (15-16 November), which will have a lot on its agenda, especially the crisis in Ukraine.

Two other important summits will take place before and after the meeting in Indonesia.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will hold its 40th summit next Friday (11 November) with the heads of state and government from its 10 member states.

The meeting will take place in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, marking the end of Cambodia's rotating presidency, with Indonesia set to pick up the heavy baton.

One major issue will be Myanmar, an ASEAN member that plunged into a civil after the military seized power war on 1 February 2021.

So far, ASEAN has essentially reiterated the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of its members, but it faces internal and external pressure for stronger action.

The association’s five-point plan drawn up last year to end the hostilities and find a solution to the confrontation between the military and the resistance has failed for all intents and purposes.

With some members more directly aligned with China, like Myanmar, and a non-democratic regime in a number of member states, coming out with a clear condemnation of Myanmar’s military regime has proven difficult.

The host country, Cambodia, has itself been under the de facto dictatorship of Prime Minister Hun Sen for over thirty years.

In light of this, it is hard for ASEAN to provide a concrete response to the Myanmar crisis.

While closing the door to the participation of Myanmar’s strongman, General Min Aung Hlain, the regional organisation continued to welcome "non-political" interlocutors designated by the junta in its various meetings.

The post-pandemic crisis, the climate crisis and the conflict in Ukraine are also expected to dominate the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bangkok (Thailand) on 18-19 November.

Currently under Thailand’s rotating presidency, as an organisation, APEC has an economic focus, bringing together 21 countries, whose combined population stands at almost three billion with US$ 42 trillion in GDP.

Its aim will be finding ways to bring the region back to adequate levels of wealth and development.

However, different views on the issues of democracy and human rights could derail the meeting as was the case for the meeting of trade ministers in May, when the participants could not agree on a final document due to divergent views on Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Russia is also an APEC member.

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