SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will be attending the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits from Thursday to Sunday (Nov 10 to 13) in Cambodia, said the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in a press release.
This is the first time the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will be holding the event in person since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 summit, chaired by Vietnam, and the 2021 summit, chaired by Brunei, were held online.
The two summits are usually held separately, one earlier in the year and with a second meeting later in the year, but this year, both will be held on the same day.
Cambodia is this year’s ASEAN chair, and the leaders at the summit – to be held in capital Phnom Penh – will discuss how the 10 countries in the association can promote peace, prosperity and stability in the region as it recovers from the pandemic, said PMO.
The theme for this year’s summit is “ASEAN A.C.T: Addressing Challenges Together”. Leaders will discuss the worsening situation in Myanmar, along with other regional and international developments.
Last month, ASEAN foreign ministers and representatives at a special meeting in Jakarta agreed that the association should be “even more determined” to bring about a peaceful solution in Myanmar.
At the meeting on Oct 27, they reaffirmed the importance of the Five-Point Consensus, a peace plan that was agreed in April 2021, two months after the military coup in Myanmar. The plan calls for an immediate end to violence and dialogue among all parties to end the country’s conflict.
It provides for the appointment of an ASEAN special envoy, currently Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn. It was also agreed for ASEAN to provide humanitarian aid to Myanmar.
There has been little progress in the implementation of the plan. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi remains in jail and there have been numerous attacks by the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s armed forces, on its political opponents.
Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in a Facebook post last month that the ministers had discussed recommendations for ASEAN leaders to consider at the summits in November.
“It is time for ASEAN to make some difficult decisions to guide our next steps on Myanmar,” he wrote.
Myanmar leader Min Aung Hlaing is not expected at the ASEAN summits, as the bloc continues to exclude the country’s political leadership at high-level meetings, inviting instead a "non-political representative". The junta has so far refused to send representatives to meetings.
PMO said the summits will also mark the association’s 55th anniversary, with the leaders taking stock of its achievements while looking to strengthen regional cooperation and reinforce “ASEAN centrality”, which refers to the bloc’s role in promoting regional multinational relations.
ASEAN leaders will meet external partners during the ASEAN Plus Three Summit, the East Asia Summit and summits with the United Nations, Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, South Korea and the United States. US President Joe Biden is expected at the meet, as is Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
The summit with Canada is a special commemorative summit marking the 45th anniversary of the dialogue relations, which was established in 1977.
Dr Balakrishnan and officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will join Mr Lee on the trip. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong will be the Acting PM in Mr Lee’s absence.