Myanmar PM to attend ASEAN summit


Myanmar PM Thein Sein

Myanmar’s prime minister, General Thein Sein, will attend the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Thailand this week, an official announced Monday.

The official confirmed a state media report that General Thein Sein would visit the key summit in the Gulf of Thailand, where regional heads of state are set to gather Friday.

“General Thein Sein will attend the ASEAN summit,” said the official on condition of anonymity.

His trip to Thailand comes as the junta appears to be opening up diplomatic channels abroad, with Thein Sein last month becoming the highest-ranking Myanmar official to attend the United Nations General Assembly in 14 years.

The prime minister made a speech before the assembly on September 28, slamming Western economic sanctions against his country as politically motivated as the US mulls greater engagement with the reclusive government.

Thein Sein’s last appearance at an ASEAN summit was in 2007, when he caused a diplomatic furore by forcing host Singapore to revoke an invitation to UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari.

Gambari had been due to brief regional leaders after a bloody crackdown on street protests in Myanmar that caused international revulsion.

Myanmar has caused constant problems for ASEAN since it joined the bloc in 1997 over its human rights record and this year’s summit is due to officially launch a new body to help prevent rights abuses in the region.

Leaders attending the 15th annual summit, being held in Hua Hin, where Thailand’s revered king often resides, are due to discuss closer economic ties and ways of coping with the region’s natural disasters.

The summit will be followed by talks between the 10 members of ASEAN and the leaders of China, South Korea, Japan, Australia, India and New Zealand.

Thailand is mobilising an 18,000-strong security force and invoking a harsh internal security act to prevent protests disrupting the meetings, which have been cancelled twice before because of anti-government demonstrations.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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