Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed that Myanmar (Burma) can chair the regional bloc in 2014, amid some signs of reform in the country.
The move came at a summit of the 10-member group in Indonesia.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told the BBC the decision was unanimous.
He said member states believed that Burma had made significant progress down the path of democracy.
The announcement came as Burma's pro-democracy party appeared poised to rejoin the country's political process.
The leadership of the ASEAN regional grouping rotates on an annual basis, but Burma was not allowed to take the top position last time because of its human rights record.
Some critics say it is still too early to award the high-profile role to Burma, where between 600 and 1,000 political prisoners are thought to remain behind bars.
But Natalegawa said it was important to recognize that the situation had changed.
"It's not about the past, it's about the future, what leaders are doing now," he said. "We're trying to ensure the process of change continues."
Anchor Marco Werman talks to Brian Joseph, of the National Endowment for Democracy, about the recent developments in Myanmar which are bringing the country out of its isolation.