The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) celebrates its 50th foundation year and the 31st time of hosting ASEAN Summits. This year’s host is the Philippines. The summit meeting itself will be on November 13 to 14 at the Philippine International Convention Center near the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The related activities for the Summit are scheduled from November 11 to 14 with many of the world leaders starting to arrive early.
This year’s theme for the ASEAN Summit is “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World,” which is a reflection of the advocacy of the Philippine government to promote unity among members of ASEAN and their global partners.
First to arrive were Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen who came a few minutes earlier. The two leaders landed at the Clark International Airport on November 11. They were welcomed by government representatives, including Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and former Philippine president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
On Sunday, November 12, airport authorities said that 7 of the 20 heads of state would land at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Arriving aboard their official aircraft include President Donald Trump (U.S.), Premier Li Keqiang (China), Pres. Moon Jae-in (South Korea), Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Japan), Pres. Halimah Yacob (Singapore), Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (Brunei Darussalam) and Pres. Ram Nath Kovind (India).
U.S. President Trump, who’s coming from Vietnam where he attended the APEC meeting, decided to extend his stay in the Philippines and will be in Manila for two days.
Also expected to attend the ASEAN Summit on November 13 to 14 are ASEAN dialogue partners such as Russia, New Zealand, the European Union, India, Canada and Australia.
Still to arrive for the summit are other ASEAN leaders: Prime Minister Najib Razak (Malaysia), President Joko Widodo (Indonesia), Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith (Laos), President Tran Dai Quang (Vietnam) and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (Thailand).
Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India is set to join the Summit’s other activities. He is attending the 12th East Asia Summit and the 5th ASEAN-India Summit on November 14.
He is expected to renew his call for the creation of a coordinated global program to deal with non-traditional and traditional threats in the region.
ASEAN and India’s relationship has risen in the past few years in the areas of defense and security as well as investment and trade. Japan, France and the United States have been urging India to have a larger role in the region where the military threat from China grows larger. Likewise, Prime Minister Modi said that the ASEAN member states also want more engagement from India in the region.
It is speculated that Aung San Suu Kyi may have a tough time during the Summit in relation to her non-intervention in the Rohingya crisis. The UN has accused the Burmese military of ethnic cleansing.
Just last week, American lawmakers proposed sanctions against the armed forces of Myanmar to pressure the country to end their abusive treatment of the Rohingya minority. Democrats and Republicans both introduced legislation to restrict cooperation or assistance to the country’s military. They are also urging the White House to issue U.S. visa bans on identified senior officials of the Myanmar military.
The Philippine government said it would leave it to Myanmar delegates if they want to discuss the Rohingya issue.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs may also be a hot issue. He has an ally in Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who also has a tough time on his war on drugs in his country. While the arrests in Cambodia increased, Prime Minister Hun Sen said that he would not allow killings to happen during his campaign.
The official Summit agenda, according to Enrique Manalo, the Foreign Affairs Undersecretary, include protection of the rights of migrant workers from the ASEAN, malnutrition, cybercrime, innovation, and the rise of violent extremism and radicalization.