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A new phase for Myanmar
Publication Date : 20-01-2014
The year 2014 will be a litmus test for Myanmar as the country assumes its chairmanship of Asean, one of the world’s influential regional blocs with a total population of about 600 million.
During the Asean Summit in Jakarta in 2011, Myanmar officially lobbied to be named the Asean chair in 2014 instead of 2016, swapping places with Laos.
After several assessments, all Asean members later that year were convinced democracy in Myanmar had improved and that it deserved to chair Asean in 2014.
The most fundamental question that has arisen is whether the grou-ping can indeed achieve its 2015 target of becoming a single economic community. Asean in the past year has already pushed back the date for the formation of the community from the beginning of 2015 to the end of 2015, and this change has left a number of experts confounded.
At present, most Asean officials are saying in one voice that the year 2015 would not be the end but the beginning of a long process to form the Asean Community, given the fact that member countries have various differences in development, infrastructure, political systems, education, healthcare and so on.
Another point to ponder is that the South China Sea dispute would still be one of the biggest challenges for Myanmar during its tenure as Asean chair, partly because of the country’s long-standing relationship with emerging giant China.
Many observers say that the Myanmar government needs to find a non-biased solution that can be accepted by all the parties concerned in the maritime dispute.
Although it can be assumed that the dispute will take years to resolve, we do hope that our leaders can reiterate the importance of maintaining peace and stability, maritime security, free-dom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea.