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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Burma: Caught between ASEAN and a hard place

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Related posts:
The mess that is Myanmar
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Free Burma

It was pretty disheartening when Walski read this Malaysiakini news report stating, for all practical purposes, where Malaysia officially stands, while speaking on ASEAN's behalf.

Image hosting by PhotobucketGambar-ing with Gambari
(click on image to read full report - subscription required)

In Walski's mind, he almost could almost hear the headline being read outloud, followed by an evil supervillian "MUAHAHAHAHAHA" laugh...

The problem, among other things, is that it seems there is nothing in the ASEAN charter that allowsa member country to be suspended... Odd, if you ask Walski - imagine a club where no matter what you do, you will always be a member. Our Foreign Minister went on to say:

However, the minister said Burma's neighbours must work to prevent the impoverished nation from becoming even more internationally isolated, notably by fostering its dialogue with the United Nations.
(source: Malaysiakini - subscription required)

Don't know about you, but to Walski, this is nothing more than empty political rhetoric from an almost empty-headed politician, combined with his empty-headed counterparts from ASEAN, fully illustrating the concrete steps ASEAN has taken to get Burma's junta to behave like human beings - one big empty NOTHING.

Here's a country ruled by one mean bunch of SOB's, who couldn't care less about human lives, only how to remain in power. They pretty much have said "Fuck Off" to the rest of the world, in not so many words. And what does ASEAN do?

Talk. Lots of talk. Engage them, ASEAN says. Well, 10 years of ASEAN engagement seems to have had the grand sum total result of... umm, nothing to speak of, really. Not ironically, it was Malaysia that nominated Burma to enter the regional bloc in 1997. Perhaps Malaysia's (and ASEAN's) unwillingness to exert a sterner stand against Burma is telling of how important human rights is to the ASEAN member states.

Not important enough, it would appear.
(Gambari talks back, and more, in the full post)

Be that as it may, earlier today, Malaysiakini carried an AFP news report quoting the UN special envoy telling ASEAN to put the money where their mouth is (in not so many words).

UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari wants Southeast Asian nations to turn their rhetoric on Burma into real action to achieve reforms, a senior source briefed by the diplomat said today.

The diplomatic source said Gambari wants to "see what Asean governments are really prepared to do" to resolve the crisis in Burma (now renamed Myanmar) following its violent crackdown on anti-government protesters.

"It is not enough for Asean countries to make statements expressing concern. They must now work together with the UN, China and India," the source told AFP, referring to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"Gambari wants Asean to be really involved in monitoring what is happening in Myanmar, not just statements from conference to conference."
(source: Malaysiakini - subscription required)

The report went on to quote the special envoy to state that the current mode of engagement must be stepped up. To Walski, any action compared to none is definitely a step up. ASEAN has pretty much left Burma to carry out reforms without much supervision. It is pretty clear that the ruling junta, which doesn't give a toss about what the UN and the rest of the world thinks, have been paying lip service to ASEAN and not much more.

There's a popular colloquial saying here in Malaysia - No Action, Talk Only - or NATO for short. And left to Burma's own devices, ASEAN's NATO, if it carries on, will have one and only one loser in the long run - Burma itself.