ASEAN


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…)

With tens of millions of ballots cast and countless futures pondered, it has all come to this. Myanmar is forced to watch and wait as the National League for Democracy manoeuvres itself closer to power. (more…)

Victory by Aung San Suu Kyi in the Myanmar elections should provide a much needed tonic for free speech advocates across a region where countries often win comparisons with the banana republics of central America in the 1980s. Whether her win — with an estimated 75 to 80 percent of the vote — can propel the National League for Democracy (NLD) into government is another question. (more…)

The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights group is warning the Rohingya crisis could get worse.

Increasingly marginalized and desperate, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine State are being forced to flee in ever-greater numbers, exacerbating a regional crisis that ASEAN leaders are woefully ill prepared to cope with, APHR warned on October 16.
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It’s pretty much a given that most folks find economic news rather boring and a bit stodgy.

Not this week, though – not when the subject is the signing on October 5 of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact encompassing 12 Pacific Rim nations that together handle 40 percent of the world’s economy.
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After 10 years of negotiation, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN’s) much anticipated ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) comes into effect at the end of this year. There is much to be lauded in the agreement, particularly its focus on opening sectors to competition and breaking down trade barriers. The benefits of implementation could lift aggregate output by 7 percent by 2025 and generate around 14 million new jobs.
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The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a peculiar creature. Though it draws a diverse mix of foreign leaders and ministers to its meetings, it has much less clout internally and often cannot get its own members to implement its decisions.
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A long road lies ahead for Burma after a general election set for Nov. 8, which is viewed as a crucial test of the sincerity of a reform effort rolled out since 2011. The Southeast Asian nation of more than 51 million people can expect to become more integrated with its neighbors as the Asean Economic Community (AEC) takes hold, increasing trade and travel between Burma, formerly a hermit state, and the region at large.
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Myanmar, which is moving fast in its economic reforms, is all geared up to bridge the development gap with more developed ASEAN countries, said Myanmar Minister for National Planning and Economic Development Dr Kan Zaw.
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The Myanmar Parliament’s passage of two bills targeting religious minorities constitutes an attack on religious freedom and threatens to stoke inter-communal tensions and violence less than three months ahead of critical general elections, said ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).
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Myanmar is not ready to enter the ASEAN Economic Community that is supposed to come into existence at the end of the year, a government official has told business leaders.
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Discussions at the 2015 Association of South East Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers’ meeting have been derailed by tensions over how to word references to the South China Sea. The notorious issue, which China initially requested be left off the agenda entirely, has signaled discord in the meeting, taking place in Kuala Lumpur. Singapore’s Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam told media on Tuesday that the issue was causing delays.
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