ASEAN


Burma, once isolated regionally and globally, is rapidly opening up with ongoing political reforms. Foreign affairs representatives from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in particular are now anticipating a relationship with a new Burmese counterpart. Yet she is no stranger to them: the foreign minister is also the country’s charismatic leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
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The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has long been envisioned as a foundation stone for stability, security and increased prosperity in Asia. But with uncertainty plaguing the political systems of Myanmar, Malaysia, and Thailand, ASEAN may be entering a period of policy and diplomatic inertia. At a time when China’s economic downturn and unilateral territorial claims are posing serious challenges to the region, ASEAN’s weakness could prove highly dangerous.
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Myanmar’s extremely disappointing response to its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN confirmed the outgoing government’s unwillingness to address the country’s key human rights challenges, FIDH and its member organization ALTSEAN-Burma said March 17.
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Seven international human rights groups on Wednesday urged the Thai government to better protect the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and victims of human trafficking in the Southeast Asian country, which has for years been dogged by criticism for its handling of these populations, including many Burmese.
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The US should further ease sanctions on Burma, Vice President Nyan Tun told US President Barack Obama at a US-ASEAN summit this week, according to Burma’s information minister.
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On the second day of the US-ASEAN summit, leaders at the Sunnylands resort in California put their heads together to formulate a common stance on the conflicting claims laid on islands in the South China Sea. The topic, which pits China and the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia on opposing sides, has long been a delicate issue among ASEAN nations, not least for Myanmar, which wants to remain neutral.
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The sages said the Year of the Monkey would be lively, unpredictable and even mischievous, but few expected the fantasyland funny business to start so quickly.
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President Barack Obama and the leaders of Southeast Asia called Tuesday for peaceful resolution of the region’s maritime disputes as they concluded a summit in California.
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A coup leader with a penchant for song. A sultan with a taste for the high life. A ruthless prime minister with 31 years on the job. A former furniture salesman. A communist politburo veteran. A prime minister trying to shake off a US$700 million financial scandal.
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Burma’s Minister of Information Ye Htut on Tuesday called on the US to lift remaining sanctions on Burma following the country’s successful elections.
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Myanmar’s outgoing President Thein Sein has at the last minute canceled plans to attend the U.S.-ASEAN summit in California next week, his office said late on Thursday, giving no reasons for the decision.
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A friend , who works with women here, mentioned to me recently that someone she knows working in the UN had complained to her about this column.
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Mainland Southeast Asia is set for a year of uncertainty and potential friction as sensitive political transitions loom, especially in Thailand and Myanmar, and external economic factors, like the slump in commodity prices and China’s slowdown, take the steam out of regional economies.
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At their annual summit in Manila last November, Myanmar and the other nine members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations pledged to seek greater unity and form a genuine community within the next decade.
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Southeast Asian nations officially launched an EU-inspired economic bloc Thursday, 31 December, aimed at boosting the region’s trading clout and attracting more investment, but analysts said a true single market was still a long way off.
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After a successful election early last month, which handed down a landslide victory to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League of Democracy, there is a growing sense of anxiety within Asean about what kind of a new Myanmar is emerging.
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Myanmar has much to do before it will be ready to join the ASEAN Economic Community, including improvements to transportation, infrastructure, electricity supply and economic policies, according to local think tank Parami Roundtable Group.
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The U.S. Army’s commander in Asia said on Tuesday he was eager for closer ties to the military in Myanmar after elections that the pro-democracy opposition won by a landslide, but this would have to wait for a policy decision by the U.S. government.
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Thailand’s foreign minister called on Friday for concerted action to tackle irregular migration in the Indian Ocean, as regional nations met for talks aimed at preventing another “boat people” crisis.
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Southeast Asian leaders meeting this week in Malaysia must urgently prioritize a coordinated plan to help the thousands of asylum seekers and migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh who are forced to risk abuse and death at sea, Amnesty International (AI)said in a statement on 16 November. (more…)

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