Myanmar crisis, South China Sea headline ASEAN summit in Indonesia

© Willy Kuriawan, Reuters

Southeast Asian leaders met in Indonesia on Tuesday to seek a united voice on the years-long Myanmar crisis and tackle rifts over China's growing assertiveness in the South China Sea.

Myanmar has been ravaged by deadly violence since a 2021 military coup deposed Aung San Suu Kyi's government and unleashed a bloody crackdown on dissent.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) -- long decried by critics as a toothless talking shop -- has been left divided over how to deal with Myanmar's junta rulers and its own failed diplomatic attempts to resolve the crisis.

"The future challenges are getting heavier and they cause competition for influence by the big powers," said Indonesian President Joko Widodo, opening one-day talks in the capital Jakarta.

"However, ASEAN has agreed not to become a proxy for any power, and to cooperate with anyone for peace and prosperity," he said.

"We must ensure that this ship continues to sail and that we have to be captains of our own ship to achieve peace."

A draft joint communique seen by AFP left blank its Myanmar section, belying the lack of consensus in the 10-member bloc whose peace efforts have so far been fruitless.

Leaders will try to hash out a united position on the conflict as Myanmar's junta ignores international criticism and refuses to engage with its opponents.

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