Myanmar’s offer to host the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in 2014 has met with little opposition from the grouping’s leadership, officials said Sunday.
Myanmar President Thein Sein submitted the request at the 18th ASEAN summit in Jakarta, which winds up Sunday.
“There seems to be a consensus forming to go ahead with it,” Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thingphakdi said.
On Friday, Laos offered to allow Myanmar to take its scheduled place as ASEAN host in 2014, since the country missed the opportunity in 2005, due to widespread condemnation of the regime’s poor human rights record and refusal to implement political reforms.
Summits are usually hosted by member states on an alphabetical basis, but there are precedents for swaps, for instance, Indonesia is chairing the summits this year instead of Brunei. Cambodian is to host the summits in 2012 and Brunei in 2013.
Myanmar now feels ready to host the summit since it held a general election on November 7 that has brought to power a new government led by the pro-military Union Solidarity and Development Party, headed by former general Thein Sein.
The election, which excluded opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest at the time, and her National League for Democracy party, was condemned as a sham by most Western democracies.
Myanmar’s bid to host the 2014 ASEAN summit has been criticized by human rights groups who claim the new elected government has done nothing to improve the country’s human rights record.
“Rewarding Burma with ASEAN’s chairmanship after it staged sham elections and still holds 2,000 political prisoners would be an embarrassment for the region,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director for activist group Human Rights Watch.
“ASEAN leaders need to decide if they will let Burma demote ASEAN to the laughing stock of intergovernmental forums,” she added.
Indonesia, which is this year’s chairman of ASEAN, has proposed sending a team to assess Myanmar’s preparedness to host a summit before giving the final go-ahead, sources said.
The decision, therefore, may be postponed until the next summit to be held in Bali in November. ASEAN now holds two summits a year.