Australia Special Summit opens

Australia Special Summit opens

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she will raise human rights concerns with Myanmar and Cambodian leaders during a three-day summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that begins in Sydney on Friday.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the chairman of Asean this year, said he feared United States moves to protect domestic industries put countries "under pressure to retaliate".

Australian officials likewise confirmed that the territorial dispute involving China and several ASEAN member-countries including the Philippines and Vietnam will be mentioned in a joint communique.

According to Blair, NSW will explore various new trade and investment arrangements with ASEAN member countries and will appoint a Special Envoy to spearhead relationship building with the region.

Amnesty International's director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, James Gomez, said Australia and Asean leaders needed to take a strong stand against what was happening on their doorstep.

Australia's trade with ASEAN countries last financial year was worth more than $100 billion.

Malcolm Turnbull will also hold bilateral talks with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong after the pair dined together on Thursday night.

Such moves give "due deference to the United States, but it implicitly recognizes that the United States isn't as big a player and reliable player as perhaps it once was", Blaxland said.

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"Australia would be happy to be able to have it waived for every other single country in the world - in other words, for the US to withdraw from this particular initiative", he said.

Officially, the summit will focus on fostering closer economic ties among the 10 members of ASEAN and Australia, and countering the threat of Islamist militants returning to the region from the Middle East.

Almost 700,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar after militant attacks on August 25 sparked a crackdown led by security forces in the western Rakhine state that the United Nations and United States have said constituted ethnic cleansing.

Australia has not commented directly on Hun Sen's threats to protestors, but said in a statement that "it goes without saying that violence, or the threat of violence, is not acceptable in Australia". While Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who has angered rights advocates with a crackdown on illegal drugs that has left thousands of mostly poor suspects dead since he took power in 2016, is expected to skip the summit altogether.

A military crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine state that began in August has seen almost 700,000 of the mainly Muslim Rohingya minority flee to Bangladesh, with pressure mounting on Ms Suu Kyi after a top United Nations rights expert warned this week the situation bore "the hallmarks of genocide".

The summit at the International Convention Center will also be attended by ministers, CEOs, small and medium businessmen from Australia and ASEAN member countries.

However this time, concerns will be raised over the Myanmar military's controversial treatment of the Muslim Rohingya community in rural Myanmar, and Ms Suu Kyi's refusal to denounce it.

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