ASEAN


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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Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Putra World Trade Center
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
August 5, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much, my co-chair and friend. I appreciate enormously the opportunity to be here with you. It’s a privilege to sit around the table with so many friends from ASEAN, and I particularly want to thank Foreign Minister Anifah Aman for his chairmanship of ASEAN itself this year. And I thank my co-chair and friend, the foreign minister of Myanmar, Wunna Mwang Lwin, for co-chairing and serving as the U.S. country coordinator so ably in this.
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Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Putra World Trade Center
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
August 5, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good morning everybody. And let me begin by thanking my counterparts, my colleagues from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam for coming this morning for the meeting, as well as the secretary general, Secretary General Luong Minh. And I’m really delighted to say thank you to Malaysia for hosting us here today. And thank you for putting up with me. I’m moving a little slow.
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Tourists will be able to visit five Southeast Asian nations on a single visa under a scheme recommended Monday at a regional business forum in Nay Pyi Taw according to the Global New Light of Myanmar on 23 June.
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The Federation of ASEAN Travel Associations (FATA) has called on ASEAN countries to waive entry visa requirements for travelers among the 10 nations, as well as from China, Japan and South Korea, in order to boost the regional tourism industry, FATA’s president told The Irrawaddy this week.
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Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday flew to Myanmar to attend a regional economic summit during which he plans to co-sign two documents to boost cooperation with Thailand’s neighbours the Nation reported on 23 June.
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Despite a long tradition of non-interference among member states, ASEAN has been urged to be more involved in addressing concerns about the growing numbers of Rohingya people fleeing Myanmar’s Rakhine province.
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To commemorate ASEAN Dengue Day on 15 June 2015, international aid agencies, community based groups and public health workers across the region organised theatre performances, school art competitions, fumigation programs and awareness campaigns.
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After the sinking of a vessel carrying some 700 refugees off the Italian island of Lampedusa in mid-April, the world’s attention has turned to a crisis of even greater proportions. Since early May, up to 8,000 migrants had been stranded in six boats spread over the Andaman Sea, off the coasts of Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Most of the migrants are Rohingya, a Muslim minority native to the Burmese state of Rakhine and the borderlands between Bangladesh and Myanmar. Following the offer of temporary asylum by Indonesia and Malaysia, an estimated 3,600 migrants have disembarked. However, both countries stressed that they were acting on the condition of financial and operational assistance from the international community, and that those taken in would be resettled or repatriated within a year.
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Malaysia — The figures are hard to keep up with: 575 on May 10; 800 on May 13; 300 on May 14; over 700 on May 15. These are the numbers of refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh found or left drifting at sea, abandoned by human traffickers on overcrowded boats, where they face starvation, rape and murderous riots. An unknown number — several thousand, according to some estimates — still remain unaccounted for, facing a grim few weeks ahead unless they are found quickly by a newly established Malaysian-led search and rescue initiative. Meanwhile, mass graves are being discovered in makeshift holding camps for refugees in the jungle along the border between Malaysia and Thailand.
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Myanmar’s membership of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, achieved in 1997, has always been a test of the rules and norms that govern the regional body.
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The Southeast Asian grouping known as ASEAN has made a point of not pressuring member nations over internal issues such as rights abuses, and in the case of Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya minority, the policy has come back to haunt it.
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Just days after Cyclone Nargis devastated Myanmar in 2008, Surin Pitsuwan, then secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), swiftly called on its member states to provide urgent humanitarian aid to the survivors.
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As every crisis unfolds, the true nature of its players is inevitably revealed in the choices made and the actions taken. A large number of people fleeing Burma and Bangladesh to Southeast Asia presents governments and people of the region with an intricately complex problem, but we must choose to take responsible actions that will shape the legacies of this generation of leaders.
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ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) have criticized Indonesia’s approach to dealing with the influx of migrants in the midst of an escalating regional refugee crisis, the group said in a statement on May 13.
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The Myanmar government’s approval of a Thai-Japanese consortium’s plan to build a large US$2.8 billion coal-fired power station in Myanmar’s southeast Mon State underlines a trend across the region to opt for the polluting fossil fuels to generate electricity.
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Recent statements by Malaysia’s Foreign Minister recognizing the regional significance of the plight of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar are a step in the right direction, but ASEAN leaders must take concrete action to address the growing crisis, said ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) this week in a statement issued April 30.
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Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar’s Defense Services Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing has stressed the need for cooperation of medical corps of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) during natural disaster, official media reported Thursday.
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Representatives of the ASEAN People’s Forum have expressed concerns over a rash of problems in the Southeast Asian region that seriously inhibit their dreams of society becoming “people centred.” (more…)

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