Saturday, May 7, 2011

Southeast Asian leaders meet in Indonesia

Myanmar row, Thai-Cambodia spat cloud ASEAN summit  
AFP – An Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Jakarta. The talks wereovershadowed by conflict …
JAKARTA (AFP) – Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met in Indonesia on Saturday for talks overshadowed by conflict on the Thai-Cambodia border and ongoing rights abuses in Myanmar.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono opened the two-day summit in the Indonesian capital, which is expected to focus on long-term efforts to create a closely integrated regional economic zone by 2015.
Other issues expected to be addressed include the scourge of human trafficking in the region, food security, territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and East Timor's membership bid.
But even before they gathered in Jakarta, the 10-member group's leaders were already under pressure to reject a request by military-led Myanmar to chair the block in 2014.
Human rights activists said ASEAN would become a "laughing stock" if they agreed to give such an honour to a country like Myanmar, a pariah state in the democratic world and serial rights abuser.
They are also facing mounting pressure to do something to end a bloody border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia which has claimed 18 lives and temporarily displaced 85,000 people in recent months.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa met his counterparts from both countries in Jakarta on Friday and said the two sides had agreed to accept 15 Indonesian military observers on each side of the disputed frontier.
But he said the deployment of this modest observer mission, which would have no power to police a ceasefire, was still some way off due to unreconciled differences over troop deployments.
"We're seeing a status quo, meaning exchange of fire and artillery, as we talk about ASEAN community. That's not quite right. There's something wrong if we keep on doing this," he said.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.