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ASEAN to back Myanmar as chair

ASEAN will reportedly vote Thursday to allow Myanmar to chair the regional grouping in 2014.

Asean 11 17 11Enlarge
The leaders and representatives of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) link hands for a group photograph during the opening of the 19th ASEAN Summit in Nusa Dua at Indonesia's resort island of Bali on November 17, 2011. From left Philippine Senior Official Ricky Carandang, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Laos Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Myanmar President Thein Sein. (Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images)

Southeast Asian leaders meeting in Bali on Thursday will recommend that Myanmar — formerly known as Burma — be allowed to chair the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2014, according to news reports.

The move is seen as as a reward for "cautious political and civil rights reforms" by Myanmar's government over the past 12 months, The Australian newspaper reported

Myanmar's authoritarian regime freed hundreds of political prisoners in October and vowed more reforms in the weeks ahead.

Myanmar was forced to renounce ASEAN's rotating presidency for 2006 amid intense criticism over its human rights record, ChannelNewsAsia reported.

"There is consensus on Myanmar's chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014," Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa reportedly said after the Bali meeting. "The ASEAN foreign ministers will recommend to our leaders."

The leaders' approval is considered a formality.

During decades of military rule, was considered an international pariah, but its quasi-civilian government —appointed after landmark elections a year ago — has surprised observers with a series of reforms.

President Barack Obama, meantime, cautioned that Myanmar must still demonstrate improvements in human rights.

"Some political prisoners have been released. The government has begun a dialogue. Still, violations of human rights persist," Obama said in a speech to the Australian parliament, ahead of joining Asian leaders in Bali for an East Asia Summit.

(GlobalPost reports: Obama tells Asia that US is "here to stay" as Pacific power)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/111116/myanmar-asean-burma-bali-indonesia