| HANOI, April 9
HANOI, April 9 Southeast Asian leaders were set
on Friday to adopt strategies for keeping economic growth on
track, bolstering their political and economic community and
making common cause on climate change.
The 10 leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations (ASEAN) will keep "supportive policies" in place to
consolidate the economic recovery, but will withdraw stimulus
measures when private demand returns, a draft of their
declaration to be issued when they wrap up an annual summit
later on Friday said.
ASEAN finance ministers said at the end of their meeting on
Thursday they expected the region to achieve 4.9-5.6 percent
annual growth, up from 1.5 percent last year. [ID:nSGE6370FZ]
Economists have warned that large capital inflows pose a
risk to the macroeconomic stability of some of the region's
economies, and the ministers said they were "cognizant" of
But Singapore's Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam
told a news conference no specific proposals were made about
managing capital flows.
The draft declaration was filled with the usual ASEAN
alphabet soup of acronyms, meetings about processes and hopeful
homilies about the community they are trying to build.
But the summit, as often happens at ASEAN meetings, has
been overshadowed by concerns about Myanmar's widely derided
election plans and unrest in one of its members. Thailand's
prime minister was forced to cancel his trip to Hanoi after
declaring a state of emergency in Bangkok to control
Myanmar's election plan was not on the agenda, but still
occupied the attention of the other nations' leaders, concerned
their most truculent member hurts the group's credibility.
Indonesia and the Philippines have publicly criticised
Myanmar's election laws, which ban political prisoners, such as
opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, from running.
Her National League for Democracy, which won the last
election in 1990 by a landslide but was denied power by the
army, is boycotting this one. That move could make it difficult
for the junta to portray the polls as free, fair, inclusive and
Myanmar has so far kept the polling date a secret.
Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told the summit's
opening on Thursday that a statement on climate change would be
adopted, "sending out ASEAN's strong message on the
international negotiating process for an effective climate
The draft declaration states the leaders will also consider
ways to strengthen their charter and community.
Foreign ministers on Thursday signed a protocol
establishing a "dispute settlement mechanism" within the
charter to resolve arguments between ASEAN member states, such
as over territory.
Procedures for the mechanism, to be finalised at a meeting
in July, completes the charter's legal framework, ministers
The charter, adopted two years ago, will turn a region of
580 million people with a combined GDP of $2.7 trillion into a
rules-based political and economic bloc over the next five
ASEAN has never censured Myanmar over its rights record and
is unlikely to do so this time. But summit leaders may indicate
to the junta's representative, Prime Minister Thein Sein, that
Myanmar is hurting the group's credibility.
"The Myanmar issue still presents a problem when we want to
take ASEAN forward to negotiate and deal with other groupings
and countries," Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said. "It
presents a major limitation for us."
ASEAN has always taken a gentle approach to the
resource-rich country wedged between India and China -- and a
half-century ago, one of Asia's most developed nations.
"We are not in a position to punish Myanmar," Singapore
Foreign Minister George Yeo said.
"ASEAN takes a very realpolitik position, which is that if
China and India remain engaged in Myanmar, we have to. It is
better that Myanmar remain in the ASEAN sphere than being a
buffer state in between the two biggest countries on earth."
ASEAN includes an absolute monarchy in Brunei, the junta in
Myanmar, one-party communist states in Laos and Vietnam and
robust democracies such the Philippines and Indonesia. Finding
common ground is not always easy in this group, which also
includes Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
(Additional reporting by Ambika Ahuja and Simon Rabinovitch;
Editing by Alex Richardson)