Naypyidaw (dpa) – The Asean summit in Naypyidaw, November 12-13, will be the last meeting for Asean leaders in 2014 and also the last meeting before the chair rotates from Myanmar to Malaysia.
Here are five key issues to look out for:
- Will China and Asean finally stop fighting in the South China Sea?
For years China and Asean members have been locked in a bitter dispute over maritime borders in the South China Sea. Beijing and the bloc agreed in October on a new hotline for maritime emergencies.
However, a long-sought-after “Code of Conduct” to solving disputes will probably not be signed, analysts say.
“China’s preference is to deal with the issue bilaterally and not multilaterally so it’s not in China’s interest to sign,” said Fuadi Pitsuwan of Harvard University’s Asian Studies Programme.
- How much real enthusiasm is there for economic integration?
The 10 members of Asean signed up for regional economic integration in 2007, to be completed by the end of 2015. But because some countries are a lot richer than others there is a fear of uncontrolled migration from poorer countries.
“Certain things will be left out, but 90 per cent of the plan will be complete by 2015,” estimates Swarup Roy, editor-in-chief of Asean Affairs Magazine. “That is already very impressive.”
- Will Asean push for a common market like the EU beyond 2015?
Private companies and economists have called on the bloc to push for greater integration both economically and in fields such as energy and infrastructure beyond 2015. But aspirations for an EU-like common market, referred to as the Asean Economic Community (AEC), will likely not be met when plans are revealed in Naypyidaw.
“Asean is different from the EU, it just wants to maintain stability, promote development and attract foreign investment,” said Chayut Setboonsarng, a regional policy analyst.
- Will Asean take new measures against human trafficking?
Sex slavery, slave labour, and human smuggling are major problems in Southeast Asia. The United States places Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia among the world’s worst offenders. For the first time, Asean will discuss passing a Regional Plan of Action that it wants to be signed before the year’s end.
Sunai Phasuk from Human Rights Watch argues that not even this is enough. “Asean needs to urgently drop its non-interference principle which has for decades made it impossible for the bloc to address problems in member countries,” he said.
- Will US President Obama push for Aung San Suu Kyi to be allowed to run in next year’s Myanmar elections?
Barack Obama has supported Myanmar’s reforms, and has pushed publicly and privately for Suu Kyi to be allowed to run for president, currently impossible under the constitution due to her late foreign spouse.
In October President Obama called Myanmar President Thein Sein to press the issue but the military still wields a veto over constitutional reform.