ASEAN Summit: Will the new Vietnamese Prime Minister get his goal?

Myanmar people took to the streets in Yangon on April 23, 2021

The new Prime Minister of Vietnam, Mr. Pham Minh Chinh is on a two-day tour (23/24/4/2021) in Indonesia to attend a high-level conference of ASEAN.

Commenting on his first foreign visit in the new position of Mr. Chinh, Friday from Hanoi, Dr. Dinh Hoang Thang, former ambassador of Vietnam to the Netherlands, former head of the advisory group for the leader of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Vietnam, told the BBC:

First of all about the expectations of the trip, I see that the new Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh wants to reaffirm the major directions on the foreign policy of the Communist Party of Vietnam outlined at the 13th Congress, in which he emphasizes the importance of Vietnam’s point towards an open and dynamic regionalism.

Accordingly, he wants to go through the summit, clearly stating the role and position of Vietnam in helping to solve regional problems, especially the crisis in Myanmar.

Next, another aspect is wanting to build the image and position of the new head of government.

However, at this point, I think the new Vietnamese PM will face some challenges because the Vietnamese position differs from the views of some members of the ASEAN great family, especially not entirely in line with The ASEAN-Trojka position concerns attitudes towards the current conflict in Myanmar.”

Commenting on what is supposed to be the self-set goals of the new Vietnamese government leader and the ability to be achieved in practice, Mr. Dinh Hoang Thang said:

This is a question that I feel in the Vietnamese and regional political observers. In this regard, I think it is difficult for Mr. Pham Minh Chinh to set specific goals, because more than anyone, he and Vietnam understand the sophistication and complexity associated with the Myanmar crisis.

Myanmar’s conflict has, over time, increasingly moved beyond Myanmar’s borders. I want to say that Myanmar is now a big chessboard in which the military is in power after the coup, while the legitimate government is “sitting in jail,” even the ASEAN countries, including Vietnam, do not play a role in deciding what to do.

But I think PM Chinh will present the familiar stance of Vietnam in the past regarding issues that are supposed to be internal to members of the bloc.

However, the ‘no interference’ stance or, in other words, the ‘silent diplomacy’ of ASEAN, I am afraid that the time has come to no longer work and the ASEAN Way will probably also come to an end.

In this context, whether the Vietnamese PM can come up with a “breakthrough” suggestion, to replace or continue, in the current state of deadlock, I think we have to wait and see from this first test with Mr. Pham Minh Chinh and his external talent.”

Given that the political crisis from the coup in early 2021 in Myanmar now makes the country’s problem a ‘conundrum‘ problem for ASEAN at the time of the bloc’s summit in Indonesia, in which regional leaders discuss the situation in Myanmar. Regarding the question of what Vietnam should say, Dinh Hoang Thang continued:

I think depending on the political character, we will look forward to how Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh will behave, as an individual, during his first appearance at an important regional forum.

But I also think that there are hardly any surprises in behavior or action because the new Vietnamese PM has a group of foreign experts inherited from the previous term.

They are qualified and experienced experts, so I hope that Mr. Pham Minh Chinh will make the most of the consultation opinions of that team of experts.

As for the statements at the meetings, whether secretly or publicly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam, as usual, has been prepared in the spirit of the highest levels, here is the Secretariat, or even Politburo, or the personal opinion of the General Secretary.

But if there is any question that PM Chính should adequately deliver a message to the Myanmar issue, I find it a very challenging question for him.

In the Myanmar issue, countries cannot just sit in air-conditioned rooms, while on the ground, the armed forces to kill and shoot massively kill women and children as we were informed daily.

Since when have humans left the Stone Age, how can they still have such evil and brutal forces? For what purpose did they act? What motivates them? Nations must find the root cause of the crisis to end civilian suffering.

So, PM Chinh will choose to speak, will still follow the same old pattern as the long-standing behavior within ASEAN member countries, according to the ‘ASEAN way’ as mentioned above, or an innovation, breakthrough, creativity and imprint, that is a great challenge for him.”

Dr. Dinh Hoang Thang, who has many years of experience in Vietnam’s diplomacy, is currently the Communications Director, at the Institute for Policy, Law, and Development Studies in Hanoi. (Translated)


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