Laos Prepares to Take the Helm of ASEAN Amidst Ongoing Myanmar Crisis

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Concerns Mount Over Laos' Leadership of ASEAN Amid Ongoing Myanmar Crisis
Indonesian President Joko Widodo hands over the ASEAN chairmanship to the Lao Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone (photo credit: The Diplomat)

In less than a month, Laos is set to assume the ASEAN chairmanship for 2024, succeeding Indonesia. But experts shared concerns over the nation’s ability to lead the region, as the unresolved crisis in Myanmar remains a significant challenge across the region.

The Myanmar conflict spiked in 2021 with a violent military coup against the elected government, claiming the 2020 election results were invalid and imposing a one-year state of emergency.

Almost three years later, ASEAN leaders haven’t found a solution to it. In a recent meeting, the bloc established a new troika of current, past, and future chairs to address the crisis in Myanmar. But analysts remain doubtful about Laos’ capacity to navigate the challenge effectively, echoing concerns raised during the tenures of previous chairs such as Brunei, Cambodia, and Indonesia.

The new mechanism, delivered by the bloc on 6 December in Jakarta, adheres to the Five-Point Consensus, a peace agreement inked in 2021 between ASEAN leaders and Myanmar military head Min Aung Hlaing on an immediate end to violence, dialogue among all parties, the appointment of a special envoy to Myanmar, humanitarian assistance by the bloc, and access to Myanmar by ASEAN representatives. Despite acknowledging slow progress in the five-point peace plan adopted after Myanmar’s coup, leaders affirmed its continued use.

Kin Phea, Director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, further emphasized the importance of Myanmar stakeholders contributing directly to a solution. He mentioned the geopolitical dynamics and the role of superpowers, urging unity among the United Nations Security Council members for a coherent approach.

Despite being a small nation with limited political influence, Laos aims to continue Indonesia’s efforts to build a more connected and resilient ASEAN.