ASEAN to stay clear of Myanmar crisis

P.S. Suryanarayana

SINGAPORE: The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Monday agreed to “make way” for Myanmar, a member-state, to “deal directly with the United Nations and the international community on its own.”

The decision to stay clear of Myanmar’s current political crisis was made at a late-night in-camera session of informal talks among the leaders of all the 10 ASEAN member-countries. These talks were to set the stage for the 13th ASEAN summit here on Tuesday.

Although Myanmar broke ranks with the other ASEAN members over its democracy challenge, the collective forum decided to make efforts to “prevent” the issue from “obstructing” the group’s huge agenda for the future. The agenda ranges from the “integration” of the ASEAN member-states to the adoption of a common charter and the establishment of a regional “community” among themselves.

Briefing the press after the session, ASEAN Chairman and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the group still “stands ready to play a role whenever Myanmar wants it to do so.” Earlier, Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein told his ASEAN colleagues that the situation in his country was entirely a “domestic affair.” Myanmar was “fully capable of handling the situation by itself,” Gen. Thein Sein emphasised.

Asked whether the collective forum had sought to set new terms for Myanmar’s continued membership, ASEAN Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong told The Hindu that there was “no” such move from any quarter. He said Gen. Thein Sein participated in the deliberations on the Myanmar issue and even gave his “inputs” for the Chairman’s statement. Myanmar “should not be unhappy” with the outcome of the latest ASEAN decisions, despite its call for the “lifting of restrictions” on the celebrated democracy campaigner, Aung San Suu Kyi.

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