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Asean to push for maritime conduct code|
Yangon, Myanmar—The incoming chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations said on Wednesday that it would rally the bloc into crafting a binding Code of Conduct that would govern maritime disputes in the South China Sea.
But at the same time, presidential spokesman and deputy information minister Ye Htut underscored the need to strike a balance between advancing the Asean-CoC and maintaining friendly ties with neighboring superpower China.
“We will try to push for the CoC. We want to see an agreement within our chairmanship,” Htut said in an interview.
“But it takes both sides to tango. Asean is our friend and China is our friend,” he added.
But ahead of its chairmanship of the Asean and the crafting of the COC, Myanmar said it would confront allegations of human rights abuses in the country.
President Thein Sein vowed to tackle allegations of human rights, but added that he would keep the issue of the Rohingya Muslim refugees out of the agenda.
But according to Eva Kusuma Sundari, president of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus, the junta-led government cannot hide behind the bloc’s policy of non-intervention to skirt the issue of violence against minority Muslims.
“Myanmar cannot hide behind the non-intervention principle as the Rohingya has affected other members of the region, especially Malaysia and Indonesia,” Sundari said.
Htut had said that the 2014 chairmanship (of the Asean) will be an opportunity to showcase the democratic reforms in Myanmar.
“Even though Myanmar is a member of Asean, we are still considered the black sheep of the region. We want to reclaim our rightful place in Asean,” Htut said.
Recently, China has agreed to consultations with the regional bloc amid concerns of militarization in disputed areas.
After years of rejecting efforts to start talks for a binding CoC, Beijing has agreed to host talks between senior Asean officials in September.
Beijing, however, continues to intrude into Philippine territory, with the deployment of Chinese vessels have been deployed in Panatag Shoal near Zambales and in Ayungin Reef in Palawan, which are both within the country’s 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
The Chinese presence in both the Panatag and Ayungin has already deprived hundreds of Filipino fishermen of their livelihood.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario earlier vowed that the Philippines would “exert efforts towards the early conclusion of a binding Code of Conduct.”
Manila has adopted a policy of not engaging the Chinese intruders amid a pending arbitration case before the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
China has refused to acknowledge both the diplomatic protests filed by the Philippines and the UNCLOS case which prompted the Philippines to ask the tribunal to issue a decision that would, among others:
• declare China’s rights in regard to maritime areas in the South China Sea, like the rights of the Philippines, are those that are established by UNCLOS, including rights to an exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf;
• declare China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea based on its so-called nine-dash line are contrary to UNCLOS and invalid;
• require China to bring its domestic legislation into conformity with its obligations under UNCLOS; and
• require that China desist from activities that violate the rights of the Philippines in its maritime domain in the West Philippine Sea.