Laos set to lead ASEAN amidst unresolved Myanmar crisis

Laos set to lead ASEAN amidst unresolved Myanmar crisis

Within the next month, Laos will take over the chairmanship of ASEAN for 2024 from Indonesia, amid all the challenges the regional organization still faces. One of the major challenges is the ongoing crisis in Myanmar, which has yet to be resolved within the ASEAN bloc.

In 2021, the conflict in Myanmar escalated with a military coup against the elected government. The coup was motivated by claims that the results of the 2020 general election were illegitimate, resulting in a one-year state of emergency.

Despite the efforts of previous chairs, such as Brunei in 2021, Cambodia in 2022, and Indonesia in 2023, analysts still doubted Laos' ability to effectively address the situation. 

At the Closing Ceremony of the 43rd ASEAN Summit in Jakarta in September 2023, Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) officially handed over the next ASEAN chairmanship to Lao Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone. As such, Laos will assume the responsibility of chairing ASEAN in 2024.

Kin Phea, director of the Institute of International Relations at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that while Laos will assume the role of ASEAN chair next year, resolving the crisis in Myanmar will be a challenge. The solution will depend on cooperation in implementing the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus, which was previously agreed to by Myanmar's military leader, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

Phea said that finding a solution to the crisis in Myanmar will be difficult without the active participation of Myanmar's stakeholders. The resolution process requires the commitment, dedication and sincerity of all parties with a stake in Myanmar to resolve the country's internal crisis.

In addition, he emphasized that geopolitics and the role of major countries and the international community have a significant impact on the resolution. When different powers support opposing sides, the resolution of the crisis becomes more complicated. However, the unity and coherence of the position of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council is seen as an important key to forming a coherent approach.

Phea stressed the need for ASEAN and the UN to take a more proactive and constructive stance on the situation in Myanmar while adhering to the principle of non-interference and working towards a peaceful solution for the people of Myanmar.

As a country bordering China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, Laos will chair ASEAN for the third time in 2024, having previously served as chair in 2004 and 2016.

The theme of "Enhancing Connectivity and Resilience" for Laos' chairmanship in 2024 reflects Laos' commitment to advancing ASEAN as a more connected and resilient bloc. Despite being a relatively small country with limited political clout, Laos is committed to following Indonesia's lead in building a more connected and resilient ASEAN.

Source: Phnom Penh Post | Laotian Times

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