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ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan (L) and Aung San Suu Kyi speak to the media in Yangon on February 22.
Pic: AFP

By Kyaw Hsu Mon
Volume 31, No. 616
February 27 – March 4, 2012

THE Association of Southeast Asian Nations was satisfied with the preparations being made by Myanmar to chair the regional organisation in 2014 but more needs to be done, the ASEAN secretary general, Dr Surin Pitsuwan, said last week.

“I’m very satisfied with the determination, awareness of responsibilities and I’m satisfied with the expressions of commitment,” Dr Surin told The Myanmar Times on February 23, while emphasising that with only two years before Myanmar chairs the regional body, “there is a lot of things of prepare here.”

Dr Surin spoke to The Myanmar Times after an address at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Myanmar in Yangon at which he said the preparations needed to chair ASEAN included both infrastructure, capacity building and what he called “software issues”.

However, he said his discussions in Nay Pyi Taw during his visit last week had given him much optimism.

Dr Surin praised the changes in Myanmar since Cyclone Nargis in 2008 when he tried unsuccessfully to be issued with a visa in the aftermath of the disaster.

“Things have been transformed,” he said.

In statement issued in Nay Pyi Taw on February 22 after a meeting with the Foreign Minister, U Wunna Maung Lwin, Dr Surin said Myanmar’s chair of the regional grouping in 2014 would be “a critical landmark in the history of ASEAN”.

He said this would partly be because Myanmar would be “responsible for wrapping up and tying the loose ends before handing over to Malaysia – the transit from your chair, which ends on 31 December 2014. There will be a lot resting on your shoulders.”

The statement quoted U Wunna Maung Lwin as acknowledging that chairing ASEAN would be “a major task for Myanmar and we want to make sure we are prepared for the challenges ahead.”

The minister said preparations for the chairmanship role would include sending officials on visits to the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta as well as sending teams to study the organisation of meetings this year in Cambodia, the current chair.

Dr Surin arrived in Myanmar on February 20 on a four-day visit which included trips to the Ayeyarwady Delta region as well as Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon.

His itinerary included meetings with President U Thein Sein, senior government officials, members of the business community and civil society organisations and the chair of the National League for Democracy, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, whom he met at her Yangon home on February 22.

At the meeting Daw Aung San Suu Kyi urged that ASEAN play a role in helping to create a bridge between Myanmar and the rest of the world.
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