Phnom Penh, 16 February 2022 (TDI): The Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Foreign Ministers are meeting in Cambodia for the first time this year on the course of Myanmar among other topics.

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According to the Cambodian Foreign Ministry, the bloc’s chair for 2022 is holding the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat in a hybrid format till Thursday in the capital of Phnom Penh. Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister namely Chea Sophara and Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn are presiding over the meeting.

This is the first meeting in a series that Cambodia will host as ASEAN chair in 2022. It comes more than a year after Myanmar’s military seized control on February 1, 2021, and apprehended civilian leaders such as Aung San Suu Kyi.

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Agenda of the Summit

According to the Foreign Ministry of Cambodia, the meeting will look into the implementation of the decisions of the leaders from the 38th and 39th ASEAN summits last year. Moreover, discourse will be made on how to further strengthen external relations with the bloc’s dialogue partners.

Discussions on the core agenda are also taking place about how to retain ASEAN’s centrality, solidarity, and unification, as well as how to develop a more resilient, peaceful, and prosperous ASEAN community.

Besides, the discussion on the regional and worldwide problems of mutual interest and concerns are also the agenda of the summit. According to Cambodian Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Chum Sounry, all ASEAN nations have confirmed their presence except for Myanmar and six Foreign Ministers will physically attend the summit.

Director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science in Bangkok namely Thitinan Pongsudhirak said that Myanmar’s military leadership is now engaged in political belligerence with ASEAN under (Cambodian) Prime Minister Hun Sen’s chairmanship this year.

According to Director Thitinan, the fact is that either ASEAN ends up with nine members or it needs to allow Myanmar’s military leadership to attend meetings, which puts the bloc in resentment.

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Five Point of Consensus Exclusion of Mayanmar from ASEAN

Further, it has been said that Myanmar’s exclusion from ASEAN will most likely be the exception until the domestic power equation is resolved. In the April of last year, ASEAN leaders struck a five-point agreement expecting to resolve the Myanmar situation.

The five points of consensus are:

First, there shall be an immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar and all parties shall exercise utmost restraint.

Second, constructive dialogue among all parties concerned shall commence seeking a peaceful solution in the interests of the people.

Third, a special envoy of the ASEAN chair shall facilitate mediation of the dialogue process, with the assistance of the Secretary-General of ASEAN.

Fourth, ASEAN shall provide humanitarian assistance through the AHA Centre.

Fifth, the special envoy and delegation shall visit Myanmar to meet with all parties concerned.

Appointment of Special Envoy to Myanmar

The nomination of a special ASEAN Ambassador was included in it to stimulate talks, as well as a visit to Myanmar by the envoy. Cambodia’s Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, is the current special envoy, albeit his visit to Mayanmar is still awaited.

It also has been expected that ASEAN will continue to rely on unofficial consultation and closed-door diplomacy to solve the Myanmar situation, as member states have varied on how to deal with Myanmar and what type of engagement or disengagement should be pursued.