News / Asia

    ASEAN Hopes to Improve Unity During Summit

    ASEAN foreign ministgers pose for group photo in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 12, 2012.
    ASEAN foreign ministgers pose for group photo in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 12, 2012.
    Irwin Loy
    World leaders congregate this week in Cambodia for high-level meetings of the Association of SouthEast Asian Nations. Analysts say ASEAN members will try to present a more united front after divisive meetings in July ended in embarrassment.  But hot-button issues, including a key maritime dispute and human rights concerns, will continue to test ASEAN’s resolve.

    Stumbling blocks

    July’s ministerial summit in Phnom Penh could hardly have gone worse for officials hoping for a show of unity among the diverse 10-member bloc. The meetings stumbled over the contentious issue of competing claims to the South China Sea. Cambodia, this year’s chair, was accused of siding with its powerful benefactor, China.

    This leaders’ summit, then, may be an opportunity for Cambodia to find some redemption in the eyes of its critics, before it gives up the chair for the year.

    Carlyle Thayer, an analyst on ASEAN affairs with the University of New South Wales, says ASEAN members will aim to avoid a repeat of July’s stalemate.

    “So the worst thing Cambodia can do is try to exert a strong influence against where the currents are going," Thayer says. "This is their last moment of glory-to go out being looked at well. The point is there's nothing further they can really do for China.”

    The Philippines, one of four ASEAN members with competing claims to the South China Sea, along with China and Taiwan, will almost certainly raise the issue again. But Thayer says it’s just as certain that China and ASEAN will be unable to strike a deal in the coming days on a long-awaited Code of Conduct to sort out the claims.

    “In the South China Sea, it's what spin will be put on where they're at, where ASEAN has reached agreement and saying bland things, congratulatory things about China and making progress. But there will be no Code of Conduct approved,” Thayer explains.

    Burma

    But it is far from the only issue that will provoke debate. Ongoing tensions in Burma’s Rakhine state continue to be a stumbling block on the country’s much-publicized road to reforms.

    Some observers say this could also be an opportunity for ASEAN to show it can resolve conflicts, which has long been a question mark for a group with a reputation for being reluctant to criticize its own members.

    “I think this could be an issue that will rescue ASEAN, if Myanmar [Burma] would like to play along … it could be good for ASEAN, because this will be the issue about the protection of human rights, and ASEAN already has the human rights commission, which has been criticized of doing nothing in the last few years," says Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a political analyst at Kyoto University. "This could be the chance for the human rights commission to come, basically not to point fingers at anyone, but to just do what ASEAN does best: coming to educate, to raise awareness and to urge the government to do something.”

    Still, Burma has resisted recent efforts to treat the problem as anything more than an internal issue.

    Human rights

    The coming meetings will more likely see the bloc move ahead with cementing a declaration on human rights. Critics say previous drafts of the document have been insufficient.

    But anticipation for the leaders’ summit will be focused on the big names expected to attend. That will include U.S. President Barack Obama, whose scheduled visit would mark the first appearance of a sitting American head of state in Cambodia.

    Obama’s presence will see a continued focus on U.S. objectives in the region as part of a so-called “pivot” to Asia and China’s reaction to renewed American interests in its backyard.

    Ernie Bower, with Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, says Obama, well aware of suspicions in China, will seek to downplay the narrative of a U.S. “containment” strategy for China.

    “The whole idea of a China area of influence and a U.S. area of influence and forcing countries to choose is exactly not what the United States wants to be about,” Bower says.

    Most countries in attendance will be looking to build on trade ties with ASEAN members. But the United States could be left out when the bloc officially launches negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which could eventually lead to a free trade area including all of ASEAN, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

    You May Like

    Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Video Canine Reading Buddies Help Students With Literacy

    Idea behind reading program is that sharing book with nonjudgmental companion boosts students' confidence and helps instill love of reading

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora