Leaders from Southeast Asian countries have begun their annual summit without the presence Myanmar, whose military refused to send a representative.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) made the rare and extraordinary decision to exclude Myanmar’s military chief Min Aung Hlaing from its summit following his junta’s failure to implement a roadmap for peace agreed upon with ASEAN.
According to a report by The Associated Press, this year’s Chair of the summit, Brunei, invited Myanmar’s highest-ranking veteran diplomat, Chan Aye, as a non-political representative, however she did not attend.
The three-day talks, which are being held via remote conferencing software, will see other world leaders attend, including US President Joe Biden and leaders from China and Russia.
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has dominated discussions at the summit, with leaders also discussing strengthened regional connectivity and cooperation between dialogue partners, as well as other issues of regional and international interest.
Thailand Urges Southeast Asia Reopening
At the summit, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha urged other ASEAN members to follow Thailand’s footsteps in reopening their countries to revive economies in the region and ensure tangible implementation of the bloc’s response to Covid-19, Bangkok Post reports.
He stated that the bloc must seek to counter the effects of the pandemic while also learning from it in order to be more resilient in the future.
“ASEAN should start reopening and allowing for safe travel to revive its economies,” he said, adding that the ASEAN Travel Corridor Arrangement Framework should be put into practice, with mutual recognition of vaccines and vaccine certificates to facilitate business travel, and later tourism.
Laos Calls for Further Cooperation
Meanwhile, Prime Minister of Laos, Dr. Phakham Viphavanh, addressed the summit, expressing heartfelt gratitude to ASEAN member nations for the invaluable aid and support provided to Laos in dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak, according to Vientiane Times.
He called upon member nations to ensure further cooperation in the fight against the pandemic and said that ASEAN centrality, consensus, and solidarity are vitally important when dealing with outsiders.