Australia to Raise Rights Concerns with Myanmar, Cambodia at ASEAN Summit

Pauline Gross
March 17, 2018

Australia is not a member of the regional grouping, but is hosting the special ASEAN summit, which, analysts said, reflects the country's intention to deepen economic and political ties in Southeast Asia in the face of rising Chinese influence and declining United States interest.

"You don't grow stronger by closing the door to other markets".

Australian officials likewise confirmed that the territorial dispute involving China and several ASEAN member-countries including the Philippines and Vietnam will be mentioned in a joint communique. It is not a ladder to get you out of the low- growth trap, it is a shovel to dig it much deeper.

In one such move, Mr Turnbull said, Asean and Australia will team up on a new Digital Standards Cooperation Initiative - a set of standards to make it easier for businesses to conduct cross-border digital trade.

Australian Foreign Minister Bishop also said Australia would "very seriously" consider any formal invitation to join the grouping, a move advocated by Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has, however, come under criticism for inviting some controversial regional leaders to his hometown, including Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Lee acknowledged China's rise has stoked divisions within ASEAN.

It is also expected that Australia will call on ASEAN nations vulnerable to tailored North Korean efforts to subvert sanctions to maintain maximum pressure.

Australia is hosting the special ASEAN meeting despite not being a member of the bloc, reflecting the country's objective of deepening political and trade ties in the region in the face of rising Chinese influence and apparent declining USA interest.

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NSW has a long history of engagement with ASEAN countries.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, right, arrives for a Marketplace walkthrough on Friday, March 16, 2018 in Sydney, Australia, during the Asean-Australia Special Summit 2018.

PM Phúc is expected to deliver three speeches, with the focus on ASEAN-Australia co-operation, including enhancing regional security and prosperity, the ASEAN-Australia economic partnership and regional maritime co-operation.

This weekend's meeting, initiated by Canberra, will focus on economics and counterterrorism, but Turnbull had been urged to use the opportunity to publicly raise human rights issues.

Activists are planning demonstrations against the visit of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to a regional summit in Australia.

Hun Sen, Cambodia's long-serving leader who had a court dissolve the main opposition party past year, has threatened to hunt down and beat anyone who demonstrates against him in Sydney.

"Asean has been shamefully silent on what is happening in one of its member states so far".

Former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans has said the global community's response to Hun Sen's alleged abuses of power has been "impossibly limp".

"This is an opportunity for us to discuss issues of concern face-to-face and raise with the Asean leaders the value that Australia attaches to protecting and promoting human rights".

Other reports by GizPress

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