HANOI – Great power rivalries, including US-China chest-thumping on a wide range of political, economic and security issues, look set to dominate this weekend’s Asian summits set inside the bleak, socialist-cliché trappings of Hanoi’s imposing National Convention Center. The immediate focus of the 17th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, with regional leaders in attendance, will be Myanmar’s first elections in two decades scheduled for November 7. As ever, the military-ruled country has added an edginess to the typically anodyne proceedings, where attention to the ephemera sometimes borders on the absurd. Two days after Robert Kelley, a former International Atomic Energy Agency official, called on ASEAN to take the lead in addressing an alleged nuclear weapons program in Myanmar, one of the three official summit press statements released by ASEAN at time of writing was devoted to the issuing a commemorative stamp by host country Vietnam.
BANGKOK — “May I propose a toast for the long-lasting Sino-Myanmar pauk-phaw friendship.” So said Li Jinjun, China’s Ambassador to Myanmar, or Burma, speaking at an official reception in Rangoon five years ago. Meaning ‘brother’ in Burmese, Li’s remarks alluded to the growing commercial and strategic ties between the two countries – links which Burmese opposition leaders and exiles have slammed for helping maintain the oppressive status quo in Burma, which is scheduled to hold elections on November 7. The real meaning of Pauk-phaw was underlined last week with the visit of Burma’s junta leader Sen. Gen. Than Shwe to China, marking the 60th anniversary of bilateral relations between the two countries, where once again both sides saluted their pauk-phaw relationship