11 July 2024

Jakarta, Indonesia  – The Philippines is ready to chair ASEAN in 2026 instead of Myanmar, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said Tuesday, as the bloc wrestles with how to engage with the country’s junta rulers.

Myanmar has been ravaged by deadly violence since a 2021 military coup deposed Aung San Suu Kyi’s government and unleashed a bloody crackdown on dissent.

“It is my pleasure to announce that the Philippines is ready to take the helm and chair ASEAN in 2026,” Marcos told Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders in the Indonesian capital Jakarta.

“We will fortify the foundations of our community-building and navigate ASEAN as it embarks on a new chapter,” he said, according to a statement from the presidential palace.

Marcos did not say why Manila was taking over the chair from Myanmar.

However, two Southeast Asian diplomats attending the summit said the move was agreed by leaders so the crisis would not hijack the bloc’s agenda and prevent “external partners” coming to Myanmar for their gatherings.

“It’s been decided. It was announced at the leaders’ meeting and there was no objection,” said one diplomat on the condition of anonymity.

ASEAN wrote to the Philippines to ask if it was willing to accept the chair for that year and Manila accepted, the diplomat said.

A second diplomat, who also declined to be identified, said the switch had been agreed after “leaders’ assessment on the progress” of a five-point plan agreed two years ago that the junta in Myanmar has largely ignored.

Laos will host next year’s summit and Malaysia will chair the event in 2025.

By Agence France Presse