Asean foreign ministers continue talks in Vietnam

18-Jan-2020 Intellasia | BangkokPost | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Foreign ministers from Southeast Asian nations in Vietnam for a two-day meeting continued talks on Friday, with South China Sea tensions and stalled Rohingya refugee repatriation to Myanmar high on the agenda.

At a working dinner on Thursday night, the ministers tentatively agreed to a US proposal for a special summit with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on March 14 in Las Vegas, but Asean leaders will have the final say on the matter, Asean sources said.

US President Donald Trump invited Asean leaders to the United States for the summit after he skipped Asean-hosted summits in November in Bangkok and disappointed his Asean counterparts with his absence from the region’s most important annual event for a second straight year.

Senior officials of Asean members pose for a group photo during a meeting in Nha Trang, Vietnam, on Thursday. (@MFAThai/Twitter)

Senior officials of Asean members pose for a group photo during a meeting in Nha Trang, Vietnam, on Thursday. (@MFAThai/Twitter)

The ministers also held a long discussion about the Rohingya issue at the dinner, according to Foreign minister Don Pramudwinai. A Myanmar representative briefed others on leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent defence of her country’s treatment of the Muslim minority at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague, he said.

More than 740,000 members of the minority group have fled from Myanmar’s Rakhine state to neighbouring Bangladesh since August 2017 to escape a military crackdown on insurgents, creating a humanitarian crisis.

At the ICJ, Buddhist-majority Myanmar has been accused of carrying out genocide against the Rohingya through “acts adopted, taken and condoned” by the Myanmar government. The UN court is set to issue a ruling next Thursday.

Malaysian Foreign minister Saifuddin Abdullah said on his Facebook page on Friday that those who perpetrated the killings must be brought to justice while the safe return of refugees should happen as quickly as possible.

The minister also called on the Myanmar government to grant citizenship to Rohingya people within its borders before repatriation of those outside occurs.

Asean has deepened its involvement in the thorny issue despite its principle of noninterference in the domestic affairs of member states, with Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia repeatedly calling on Myanmar to facilitate the repatriation process.

Regarding the South China Sea, where several Asean members have competing territorial claims with China, the foreign ministers still wanted to achieve the goal of setting a “Code of Conduct” between Asean and China to manage the disputes, the Thai minister said.

The two-day meeting began Thursday in the seaside town of Nha Trang with the working dinner, followed by an informal meeting on Friday.

The “retreat” marked the first Asean ministerial meeting to be hosted by Vietnam since it recently took over the rotating chairmanship of the 10-member regional body from Thailand.


Category: Regional

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