Laos prepares to accept Asean chair against backdrop of Myanmar crisis

Indonesian President Joko Widodo hands the Asean Chairmanship gavel to Laos Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone during the 43rd Asean Summit in Jakarta on September 7. - Photo courtesy of Asean Secretariat

VIENTIANE (Phnom Penh Post/ANN): In just a month, Laos is set to succeed Indonesia as the Asean chair for 2024, taking the helm amid ongoing challenges. Foremost among these is the unresolved crisis in Myanmar, a persistent internal issue for the bloc.

Despite efforts by previous chairs like Brunei in 2021, Cambodia in 2022, and Indonesia in 2023, analysts remain skeptical about Laos’ ability to effectively address the situation, which has been ongoing since the 2021 military coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government.

At the 43rd Asean Summit’s closing ceremony in Jakarta, Indonesia, in September, Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, the 2023 chair, formally handed over the position to Lao prime minister Sonexay Siphandone, giving Laos the helm for 2024.

Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, stated that although Laos will head the bloc next year, resolving the Myanmar issue will be challenging. The solution will be closely tied to cooperation in implementing the Asean Five-Point Consensus, which Myanmar’s military leader, senior general Min Aung Hlaing, has signed.

“If the stakeholders in Myanmar themselves do not contribute directly to finding the solution, it will be difficult. It requires all stakeholders in Myanmar to be willing, committed and honest in resolving their country’s internal crisis,” he said.

“Secondly, geopolitics and the significant role of superpowers and the international community also play a part. If different powers support opposing sides, the resolution becomes complex unless the five permanent members of the UN Security Council unify their stance on Myanmar. This unity would enable a coherent approach towards a solution,” he explained.

He added that the international community should encourage and put pressure on both sides, especially the opposition, to compel the military government towards political concessions. This would enable the opposition to participate in the solution.

Phea emphasised that Asean and the UN must adopt a more proactive and constructive stance on Myanmar’s situation, respecting the principle of non-interference while seeking a peaceful resolution for Myanmar’s people.

Bordered by Myanmar, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, Laos will chair the bloc for the third time in 2024, following its previous tenures in 2004 and 2016.

The theme for Laos’ 2024 chairmanship is “Enhancing Connectivity and Resilience,” reflecting Laos’ commitment to fostering a more connected and resilient Asean bloc. - Phnom Penh Post/ANN

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Laos , New Chair , Asean , Ready , 2024 , Myanmar Issues


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