ASEAN summit starts

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April 4, 2012

PHNOM PENH: Southeast Asian leaders met Tuesday for an annual summit set to be dominated by Myanmar's historic reforms, North Korea's planned rocket launch and strategic maritime disputes with China.

April 4, 2012

PHNOM PENH: Southeast Asian leaders met Tuesday for an annual summit set to be dominated by Myanmar's historic reforms, North Korea's planned rocket launch and strategic maritime disputes with China.

Leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) convened in the Cambodian capital two days after by-elections in Myanmar saw pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi win her first seat in parliament.

Election monitors from Cambodia, which holds the ASEAN chair, have declared Sunday's vote free and fair, and urged the West to lift sanctions imposed over the Myanmar military's long record of rights abuses.

ASEAN foreign ministers applauded the "orderly" conduct of the polls during talks in Phnom Penh on Monday, setting the stage for a strong endorsement from the bloc's leaders at Wednesday's conclusion of the two-day summit.

ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan said the vote should contribute to the "reintegration of Myanmar into the global community", a reference to the possible lifting of sanctions.

Myanmar's human rights abuses and iron-fisted suppression of political dissent have often hijacked ASEAN gatherings in the past, much to the embarrassment of more democratic member-states.

But over the past 12 months the country's quasi-civilian government, led by President Thein Sein, has freed hundreds of political prisoners, eased media restrictions and welcomed the opposition back to the political fold.

At the last ASEAN summit in November, the country was rewarded for its efforts by being promised the bloc's chairmanship in 2014. Myanmar is eager too to win greater foreign investment with the prospect of sanctions being lifted.

ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – a grouping of nearly 600 million people from disparate economic and political systems.


Courtesy: globalnations