Myanmar's executions 'a stain on our region', Jacinda Ardern says, as week of southeast Asian mega meetings begins

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has touched down in Cambodia for a whirlwind week of southeast Asian mega meetings.

The region is at the centre of the increasing competition between China and the United States - with the US president showing up for the first time in years.

The summits are also being held under the clouds of the Myanmar crisis, which Ardern has called a stain on the region.

The Cambodian capital, Phnom Phen, is serving up the first meetings of a super-charged southeast Asian summit season.

It's seen the return of US President Joe Biden and his superpower to the East Asia Summit after President Donald Trump's years of snubs.

While China used America's absence to turn on the charm offensive in the region, this is Beijing's strategic backyard and New Zealand isn't picking a side.

"We seek de-escalation dialogue and in that regard, you can be country-neutral," Ardern said.

After Ardern arrived, her attention turned to the woes of the world.

"We haven't taken our eye off Myanmar and neither should the world because what's happening there is atrocious."

Its military junta is frozen out from its Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) partners, which are powerless in their efforts for peace and to halt executions in Myanmar.

"That is a devastating situation and a stain on our region," Ardern said.

Yet at a time when disagreements and divergences are easier to find than cooperation and collaboration, there is one win for us - an upgraded trade deal with the 10 ASEAN nations, who are our third biggest trading block.

"It's going to cut red tape and it's going to make things much easier for our exporters in terms of investment, services, and in goods," said Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth Phil Twyford.

But it's the bleak that will hang over these meetings, with Ardern saying there are a "number of clouds" the East Asia Summit is dealing with. But she added that at least the big countries are now turning up to listen.

Ardern is squeezing in a few big meetings this week while she's there. She will formally meet with the Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen, on Sunday afternoon (local time) and top of her agenda will be Myanmar.

As chair of the ASEAN summit, Cambodia has pushed hard for a pathway to peace, but that's been ignored by the military junta.

But the beauty of these summits is the sideline chats. At the gala dinner on Saturday night, Ardern was four seats away from Biden. On the way out, she managed to squeeze in a 15-minute chat crouched beside his chair, chatting about ongoing issues, the state of the world, and lighter topics, like their families.

And before the trade deal photo op, Ardern caught up with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, getting his attention by calling "Albo" out across the room.

But there's still one meeting yet to be secured - Ardern with President Xi Jinping.