PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is seeking to reschedule a summit meeting of its leaders with U.S. President Joe Biden, Cambodian and Indonesian officials said Thursday.
Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Chum Sounry explained in a statement sent Thursday that the proposed March 28-29 dates “were not convenient for our leaders due to their respective heavy agenda.” Cambodia is this year’s chair of the regional grouping, known as ASEAN.
The dates, which had been proposed by the U.S. for the special summit in Washington, would not allow all heads of government to attend, Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah said Thursday in the Indonesian capital Jakarta.
He said that Indonesia, as coordinator for ASEAN with the United States, is still seeking a suitable date for all parties.
The White House last month had announced the March 28-29 summit as an opportunity to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to the bloc and a chance to mark 45 years of U.S.-ASEAN relations. There was no immediate comment from Washington to the postponement announcements.
ASEAN’s 10 members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Its members have been at odds with each other over the crisis in Myanmar, which has been wracked by violent unrest since the army ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February last year.
ASEAN is seeking to implement a five-point plan for Myanmar it reached last year stressing dialogue, humanitarian assistance and an end to violence. But the ruling military council of Myanmar has delayed the plan’s implementation even as the country has slipped into a situation that some U.N. experts have described as civil war.
Myanmar’s lack of cooperation led ASEAN last year to bar its leader, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, from attending its annual summit meeting, an unprecedented step for the body. It has applied a similar policy for subsequent meetings, saying that it would allow Myanmar to send only non-political representatives.
The deadlock over Myanmar is almost unprecedented for the grouping, whose members have traditionally avoided public criticism of each other and operated by consensus.