Bishop: Australia will raise concerns

SYDNEY – 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.

Australia is hosting the special meeting, despite not being a member of the 10-nation bloc, as it seeks to tighten political and trade ties in the region amid China’s rising influence.

Ms Bishop said that Australia would “very seriously” consider any formal invitation to join the grouping, a move advocated by Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Asked whether the meeting was a direct counter to China’s growing interest in the region, Ms Bishop said Australia believed the bloc brought it “peace, stability and security”.

“We don’t see it as having a role to balance the powers in the Indo-Pacific but rather be at the heart of the engagement collaboration with other countries,” she told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio ahead of the opening of the summit.

The inclusion of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen in the meeting has drawn criticism, and large protests are planned against both.

More Stories