In what can only be described as a remarkable moment in history, Myanmar was formally awarded the rotating chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for 2014 at the end of the group’s summit in the sultanate of Brunei. Our team covering this event feels this is a seminal moment in history for ASEAN and SE Asia.
Myanmar won the new diplomatic prize Thursday for its dramatic political reforms, taking the helm of Southeast Asia’s regional bloc. President Thein Sein said the theme of Myanmar’s chairmanship would be “moving forward in unity in a peaceful and prosperous community”.
The former general has earned international plaudits and the removal of most Western sanctions for reforms.
Speaking at the Brunei summit, UN leader Ban Ki-moon recognized Myanmar’s transformation. “The ASEAN chairmanship, as well as general elections in 2015, “will be very important milestones for the future of Myanmar,” he said.
“It’s important that the ASEAN countries as well as all United Nations member states fully encourage Myanmar authorities so that they can do more on this participatory democratic transition,” Ban added.
Along with the ASEAN chairmanship, Myanmar will host the East Asia Summit in 2014, which brings ASEAN members together with the United States, China and Russia, among others.
Relations between the US and Myanmar — a traditional ally of China — have improved markedly since the end of military rule with US President Barack Obama making a historic visit there last year.