MYANMAR PROGRESS OPENS EU DOORS
Asean calls for Myanmar boycotts to end, Asean mediates in Thai-Cambodian border dispute, financial integration progresses, economic growth continues.
Call for end to
In mid-January the Asean community called for an end to the boycotts imposed by the international community on Myanmar. This diplomatic effort followed the internationally criticized Myanmar election held in late 2010.
The United States placed a ban on all imports from Myanmar in 2003, while the European Union has placed a raft of sanctions against the country for the past 15 years.
Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya raised the issue for talks on the boycotts with other Asean foreign ministers. He said Asean should tell the world that democracy has returned to Burma. Thailand, next to China, is a major investor in resource-rich Myanmar.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who is Asean chair this year, followed up when he said Asean advocated “an immediate or early removal or easing of sanctions that have been applied against [Myanmar] by some countries.”
The latest acceptance of Asean’s engagement policy toward Myanmar is from the European Union (EU) as it will proceed with the first Asean-EU business summit to begin on May 5 despite EU sanctions against Myanmar.
“With the progress that has been made in Myanmar on various issues, I think we are hoping they’ll come further,” EU Ambassador to Indonesia, Brunei and ASEAN, Julian Wilson, said after a discussion on Indonesia-EU bilateral relations.
Wilson said the EU did not want to stop negotiations for a free trade-style agreement with Asean only because of Myanmar.
The summit is scheduled to take place
at the Jakarta Convention Center and is
expected to draw around 300 companies
from 10 Asean countries and the EU, with
the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and
Industry (Kadin) appointed as the organizing
Thai-Cambodian border conflict
A few short weeks after assuming the Asean chairmanship on January 1, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, was handed his first difficult task when the long-festering Thai-Cambodian border conflict over the 11th century Hindu temple Preah Vihear, once again ignited.
There were a few clashes with a few casualties on each side and some damage to the ancient temple itself but the swift and effective mediation initiated by the foreign minister led to a ceasefire, although troops of the two countries remain positioned on the disputed border.
Indonesia invited Thailand and Cambodia to hold both General Border Committee (GBC) and Joint Boundary Committee (JBC) meetings at Bogor, east of Jakarta, on April 7-8.
The foreign ministries of Thailand and Cambodia agreed to attend the JBC, but the defence ministries of the two countries have not been able to agree on the GBC meeting. The GBC is chaired by the respective defence ministers; the JBC by the foreign ministers.
Chavanont Intarakomalyasut, secretary to Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, will attend the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Committee (JBC) meeting in Bogor on April 7-8. He will be accompanied by Asda Jayanam, the Thai chairman of the JBC, and other officials.
Thai Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon has repeatedly said he would not go to the GBC meeting. He has said the GBC should be purely bilateral and the meeting should be held in either Cambodia or Thailand, not in Indonesia or any third country. Cambodia will be represented at the meeting by General Tea Banh.
The Thai defence minister’s attitude toward the GBC meeting once again underlines the conservative and nationalistic nature of Thailand. It is the only Asian country that has not been colonized or occupied throughout its history and likes to sail its own ship.
When foreign megastores opened in Thailand following the 1997 financial crisis it was a rude shock to some of Thailand’s wealthy stakeholders but warmly welcomed by the country’s middle and lower classes. With the coming of the Asean Economic Community in 2015, certain segments of Thai society can expect more shocks as Asean takes on a more visible and substantial role................
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