ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Issues facing Asean
By David Swartzemtruber
1. The Thai-Cambodia border conflict
2. The status of the 2014 chairmanship
3. The acceptance of Timor Leste as a member
4. Not to be forgotten is the arrival of the Asean Economic Community in 2015
Indonesia is the chairman this year as it swapped places with Brunei to take center stage as Asean’s largest economy and an emerging regional power.
Successful resolution of the Thai-Cambodia conflict looms as essential this year as Cambodia is slated to be next year’s Asean chairman and if the dispute is not resolved, it could place Cambodia in an untenable position as chairman.
Myanmar has requested to become the 2014 chairman as a imprimatur for its acceptance onto the world stage. Asean has said it will send a team of senior officials to assess Myanmar’s readiness. The 2014 chairmanship is not viewed as automatic by some Asean member states and they feel that unless Myanmar adheres to the Asean Charter, it should not be allowed to become chairman.
Timor Leste stated in March that it wanted to join Asean now as opposed to the announced date of 2015. Cambodia and Thailand support the advanced joining date, while Singapore opposes it.
Singapore feels that because of Timor Leste’s poverty and lack of English language capabilities it could delay the start-up of the Asean Economic Community.
This week’s meetings may well be an indication of the growing maturity (or lack thereof) of Asean’s member states.
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