. Space Travel News .

ASEAN buoyed by Myanmar but worried by sea disputes
by Staff Writers
Phnom Penh (AFP) April 1, 2012

The aftermath of landmark by-elections in former pariah state Myanmar is set to dominate this week's summit of Southeast Asian leaders in Cambodia -- unless a regional maritime row steals the show.

The outcome of Sunday's vote, in which Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi is standing for parliament for the first time, will not be known when the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) starts its two-day summit in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.

But if international observers, including ASEAN monitors, deem the polls transparent and acceptable, it will boost Myanmar's democratic reform credentials, possibly paving the way for an end to Western sanctions -- a move ASEAN has long supported.

"It's a very important step towards Myanmar's political rehabilitation," a Southeast Asian diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity so he could speak more openly.

"But whether the goodwill generated by the reforms will continue depends a lot on the results of the elections -- whether they are perceived to be free and fair," he said.

Myanmar's poor human rights record and iron-fisted suppression of political dissent have often hijacked ASEAN gatherings in the past, much to the embarrassment of more democratic member-states.

But Myanmar will attend this year's meeting basking in the glow of recent changes.

Over the past 12 months the country's quasi-civilian government, led by President Thein Sein, has freed hundreds of political prisoners, eased media restrictions and welcomed the opposition back to the political fold.

At the last ASEAN summit in November, the country was rewarded for its efforts by being promised the bloc's chairmanship in 2014. Myanmar is eager too to win greater foreign investment with the prospect of sanctions being lifted.

ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam -- a grouping of nearly 600 million people of hugely disparate economic development and political systems.

"All ASEAN members will be concerned to assist Myanmar in its present reformist trajectory and see the elimination of sanctions presently imposed by the EU and the United States," said Carl Thayer, a politics professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

Despite Myanmar's reforms, many diplomats remain cautious and Suu Kyi herself has expressed serious concern about whether the election will prove to be fully free and fair.

China and regional tensions over the South China Sea will also loom large over the summit, thanks in no small part to an eye-catching visit to Phnom Penh by President Hu Jintao on the eve of the meeting.

China is not an ASEAN member, but observers say the timing of the first trip to Cambodia by a Chinese head of state in 12 years was no coincidence.

"China has already succeeded in getting Cambodia to keep the South China Sea off the formal (ASEAN) agenda," Thayer said.

"But that will not prevent concerned states such as the Philippines from raising maritime security issues."

China and Taiwan claim all of the potentially resource-rich South China Sea, while ASEAN members the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims to parts of it.

To China's anger, the United States says freedom of navigation in the sea is a matter of its own "national interest".

The region is a conduit for more than one-third of the world's seaborne trade and half its traffic in oil and gas, and major petroleum deposits are believed to lie below the seabed.

Manila has been leading a push for ASEAN to form a united front to get China to agree on a "code of conduct" in the sea, where tensions have flared recently with both Vietnam and the Philippines accusing China of aggressive behaviour.

But Beijing insists on dealing with the claimants individually.

Noting that ASEAN works by consensus, Thayer said "China's strategy is to entice one or more members into adopting China-friendly policies and thus prevent an ASEAN united front against China".

Cambodia, in its second turn as ASEAN host, denied that Hu's four-day stay was anything other than a friendly visit by a close ally.

Related Links
Powering The World in the 21st Century at Energy-Daily.com

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries

And it's 3... 2... 1... blastoff! Discover the thrill of a real-life rocket launch.

Cambodia reassures China over regional maritime row
Phnom Penh (AFP) March 31, 2012 - Cambodia told China on Saturday it wanted Asia to resolve the South China Sea dispute, as Phnom Penh prepares to host a regional summit where the maritime row is likely to surface.

Prime Minister Hun Sen told visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao he wanted the simmering conflict to be resolved within the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) framework so it doesn't become more "complex", according to the premier's advisor Sri Thamrong.

"Our position is that we want each involved country to resolve the issue within the framework of ASEAN and China, not to internationalise it," Sri told reporters after talks between the two leaders in the Cambodian capital.

"But the prime minister said we are also facing difficulties because during the summit, other leaders could bring up the issue and we can't ban them from talking."

China and Taiwan claim all of the South China Sea, while four ASEAN countries -- the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei -- have overlapping claims to parts of it.

ASEAN leaders are holding a two-day gathering in Phnom Penh next week, and the Philippines is among the countries expected to raise the conflict in the South China Sea, which has seen several incidents recently between claimants.

Hu's four-day visit is the first by a Chinese head of state to Cambodia in 12 years and observers say it is timed to showcase Beijing's close relationship with the current ASEAN chair, and perhaps encourage the hosts to keep the maritime row off the summit agenda.

The region is a conduit for more than one-third of the world's seaborne trade and half its traffic in oil and gas, and major petroleum deposits are believed to lie below the seabed.

Beijing opposes internationalising the conflict and prefers to negotiate with its weaker regional neighbours individually rather than collectively. Hu is set to leave Cambodia on Monday, a day before the ASEAN summit opens.


. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Russia's Gazprom cuts gas prices to Bulgaria: minister
Sofia (AFP) March 30, 2012
Russia's gas giant Gazprom has agreed to cut natural gas prices to Bulgaria by just over 11 percent, Economy and Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev said after talks in Moscow on Friday. "We negotiated to receive a discount on the price of gas, which according to preliminary estimates will amount to a little over 11 percent - 11.1 percent," Dobrev told BNR national radio from Moscow, following a ... read more

Space Launch System Program Completes Step One of Combined Milestone Reviews

Russian Proton-M Puts Military Satellite into Orbit

ORS SpaceLoft-6 launch to test reliability, durability of payloads in suborbital voyage

China launches French-made communication satellite

Dusty, Acidic Glaciers Could Explain Layered Deposits on Mars

Slight Drop Of Left-Front Wheel

'Mount Sharp' On Mars Links Geology's Past and Future

A glow in the Martian night throws light on atmospheric circulation

Flying Formation - Around the Moon at 3,600 MPH

NASA's Grail MoonKam Returns First Student-Selected Lunar Images

Ecliptic "MoonKAM" Systems Begin Operations in Lunar Orbit

Two New NASA LRO Videos: See Moon's Evolution, Take a Tour

New Horizons on Approach: 22 AU Down, Just 10 to Go

Billions of Habitable Zone Rocky Planets Could be Orbiting Red Dwarf Stars

Runaway Planets Zoom at a Fraction of Light-Speed

Some orbits more popular than others in solar systems

Herschel's new view on giant planet formation

Getting to the moon on drops of fuel

NASA Fires Up Rocket Sled Hardware at China Lake

Russia to Build Nuclear Space Engine by 2017

Russia plans to build nuclear space engine

China's Lunar Docking

Shenzhou-9 may take female astronaut to space

China to launch 100 satellites during 2011-15

Three for Tiangong

New NEO Website Tool Now Available

Dawn Sees New Surface Features on Giant Asteroid

Near-miss asteroid will return next year

Dear Ups and Dawns

Memory Foam Mattress Review

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement