ASEAN efforts to kick-start a five-point peace plan to end the violence and renew peace talks has been ignored by Myanmar's ruling junta
Myanmar is expected to be a major agenda during this week's ASEAN summit in Indonesia. AFP


  • All ASEAN members will attend, expect Myanmar, whose junta leaders have been barred
  • U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping won't be attending the summit
  • Vice President Kamala Harris will be at this week's conference

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc is set to hold its last conference this year in Jakarta, Indonesia with some of the region's top officials skipping the summit as the Myanmar crisis continues to drive a wedge among member countries.

Myanmar has been a contentious issue in the bloc since the Myanmar junta took over the government in February 2021. Singapore's Prime Minister's Office (PMO) announced Monday that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will attend the conference, confirming that "the situation in Myanmar" will be discussed during the summit that will be held from Tuesday to Thursday.

Months after the military junta seized the government in a coup d'état that led to the ousting of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the 10-member bloc barred the chief of the Myanmar military, Min Aung Hlaing, from attending summits. At the time, the Myanmar Foreign Ministry said it was "extremely disappointed" in the decision.

The bloc has been calling for peace in Myanmar and came up with a "Five-Point Consensus" in April 2021 that included an agreement to "immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar."

Human rights non-profit Human Rights Watch (HRW) deemed the consensus a failure, saying the bloc did not take "meaningful steps" in pressuring the junta to halt its human rights atrocities.

In this week's summit, ASEAN leaders and representatives are expected to tackle the Myanmar crisis, especially after the European Union warned that its relations with the ASEAN may be affected if Myanmar assumes its leadership role in facilitating relations with the Western bloc. Myanmar has since said it may turn down the chairmanship of the ASEAN, which is supposed to begin in 2026.

Analysts and researchers have raised questions over the bloc's unity, citing the attendance of only three ASEAN members (Thailand, Laos and Myanmar) at a Thailand-led informal conference to reengage Myanmar with the bloc. In the greater Southeast Asian region, observers have also noted that "internal discord" was a major threat to the region's united front.

Myanmar is just one of the main issues expected to be raised by ASEAN leaders starting Tuesday. Another geopolitical sticking point is rising tensions in Southeast Asia due to territorial disputes with China.

Indonesia has said the main agendas of the summit are a "Code of Conduct regarding the South China Sea," maritime outlook of the ASEAN region, "issues related to Myanmar," the bloc's outlook in the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) and the South East Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (SEANWFZ).

While some countries will be sending their presidents to the summit, other nations will be represented by high-ranking government officials.

The Kingdom of Cambodia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed over the weekend that Prime Minister Hun Manet will "engage proactively" in the Jakarta summit.

On Friday, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. will attend the conference himself and will also raise the South China Sea issue.

Thailand's new Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin will not attend the summit and will be represented by permanent secretary Sarun Charoensuwan. Thailand has been criticized for its efforts to seemingly get Myanmar back into ASEAN engagements.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh has left Hanoi for Jakarta, accompanied by a delegation that includes some ministers and deputy ministers.

Malaysian Prime Minister Seri Anwar Ibrahim will lead the country's delegation to the summit, alongside Malaysian foreign affairs minister Diraja Dr. Zambry Abd Kadir and several other government officials, according to a press release from the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Brunei's King, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, has also reportedly confirmed his attendance at the conference, while the Laos government has also confirmed that Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone will lead the Lao delegation to Indonesia.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend the ASEAN summit before heading back home to India to host the G20 summit later this week.

Meanwhile, some world leaders will skip the ASEAN summit, including U.S. President Joe Biden, who attended a U.S.-ASEAN summit in November last year. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said last month that Vice President Kamala Harris will attend this week's conference.

China will send Premier Li Qiang to Jakarta, a statement from the Chinese foreign affairs ministry revealed last week. President Xi Jinping last attended an ASEAN summit in November 2021.