EOne of the chairs set aside for Southeast Asian leaders in Phnom Penh on Friday for their summit meeting remained empty. There would actually have the representative Myanmar should sit. But since a military junta has returned to power in the country, the Southeast Asians have banned all “political” representatives of the regime from their top meetings. The junta has therefore decided not to send anyone. The empty chair also symbolizes how divided the region is over how to deal with the military regime. The junta is trying to take control of the country, where the population is resisting, with ever more brutal means.
The host, Cambodia’s longtime Prime Minister Hun Sen, nonetheless praised the “central role” played by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for peace, security and sustainable growth. The association of states, whose ten members include Myanmar, has recently been heavily criticized because its measures against the regime there have had no effect. Community members disagree on how to proceed. Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore want to increase the pressure on Myanmar. Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, the chairman of the forthcoming G-20 summit, went to the press on Friday with his demands for an extension of the ban on “political” representatives to all levels of negotiations.