ASEAN ministers urge restraint after Pelosi Taiwan visit

ASEAN ministers urge restraint after Pelosi Taiwan visit

MYANMAR EXECUTION WARNING

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, opening the meeting as chair of ASEAN, condemned Myanmar for executing four prisoners last month in defiance of widespread international pleas for clemency.

Myanmar was plunged into violent turmoil when the military seized power last year, ousting Aun San Suu Kyi’s civilian government. The death toll from the subsequent junta crackdown has passed 2,100, according to local monitors.

ASEAN, long derided as a toothless talking shop that gives political cover to repressive regimes, has spearheaded thus far fruitless efforts to restore peace and voiced anger at the hangings.

Hun Sen said the bloc was “disappointed and disturbed” by the executions and warned that further use of capital punishment would mean a “rethink” of the five-point peace plan agreed to last year with Myanmar.

The plan calls for an immediate end to violence and dialogue between the junta and coup opponents.

Malaysia, which has been leading a push to get tough on Myanmar, is demanding concrete progress on the framework ahead of an ASEAN summit later this year.

Foreign Minister Saifuddin said last month’s executions were “like a slap”.

“They are making a mockery of the five-point consensus, there is no respect to the ASEAN leaders, there is no respect to the ASEAN chair,” he told reporters.

Myanmar itself was not represented at the meeting after the other members said they would not accept a junta minister and the generals refused to send another official instead.

In a highly visible snub to the regime, a place was set for the Myanmar delegation at the negotiating table, complete with flag, and the chair left empty.

SOUTH CHINA SEA

In addition to Taiwan, the ongoing South China Sea tensions will be another hot-button issue on the agenda.

Beijing claims most of the sea – with competing territorial assertions from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Cambodia – a key Beijing ally – last hosted ASEAN in 2012 and was accused of siding with China over the disputed and resource-rich waters, resulting in no communique being issued.

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