It was not immediately clear whether a Myanmar representative would attend, after ASEAN foreign ministers last week removed the leader of Myanmar’s junta government from the annual meeting.
President Joko Widodo called for the reopening of borders in the ASEAN region. This was expressed when speaking virtually at the 2021 ASEAN Summit on Monday (25/10).
Jokowi emphasized the need to implement the ASEAN Travel Corridor Regulatory Framework initiated by Indonesia. He stressed the importance of people to be able to return to travel between countries in order to revive the economy in the region.
“If all ASEAN countries immediately facilitate the safe movement of the masses, the wheels of the economy can immediately turn. Indonesia has also gradually reopened Bali for tourism activities safely by implementing strict health protocols,” he said.
At the same time, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for inclusiveness in business trade between the Commonwealth of Nations and ASEAN. The call reflects Trudeau’s hopes for a post-pandemic recovery. “We must ensure that more entrepreneurs – especially women, youth, indigenous peoples, LGBTQ2, visible minorities and other underrepresented entrepreneurs – are involved and benefit from trafficking activities,” he said.
In addition to Trudeau, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also spoke at the annual forum as ASEAN’s new dialogue partner, where he stressed the importance of green investment for a sustainable future.
Although the partners were present, it was not clear who would represent Myanmar – an ASEAN member state – at the meeting, after ASEAN foreign ministers removed the leader of Myanmar’s junta government, General Min Aung Hlaing, from the meeting. He was not invited because he was deemed to have failed to end the violence, initiate dialogue, allow the entry of humanitarian aid and give ASEAN’s special envoy to Myanmar full access to the country.
The ASEAN sanctions, which according to some sources were pushed by Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines, deviate from the basic principles of non-intervention in each member’s domestic affairs. Moreover, ASEAN always decides everything by consensus, which means that the refusal of one member can cancel any decision.
However, on Thursday (21/10), Malaysia’s Foreign Minister, Saifuddin Abdullah, said that ASEAN needed to reconsider its policy of not interfering in the affairs of member states that had been in effect for decades, amid the worsening human rights crisis in Myanmar. . “So I want to invite you to look at the possibility that maybe it is time for ASEAN to seriously reflect on the application of the principle of non-interference and look at the experiences of other regions.”
Myanmar strongly protests the exclusion of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing from the ASEAN summit, arguing that he currently heads the ruling government and military council.
The junta spokesman blamed ASEAN’s decision on “foreign interference,” including the United States and the European Union.
ASEAN decided to invite the country’s top veteran diplomat, Chan Aye, to the summit as the country’s “non-political” representative. Until this news was revealed it was not clear whether Chan Aye would be present.
Brunei, which currently heads ASEAN, hosted the virtual three-day meeting citing continued concerns over the coronavirus.
The meeting will also be attended by US President Joe Biden, as well as leaders of China and Russia. [rd/jm]