Getting Serious about Democracy
covering burma and southeast asia
Sunday, November 18, 2018

Getting Serious about Democracy

By Anwar Ibrahim Friday, May 12, 2006

(Page 4 of 6)

Otherwise the precedent of closing down newspapers over the publication of sensitive issues can lead to tyranny by the ruling authority.


Q: What is your opinion on people power uprisings in the Philippines and Thailand?


A: My sense is that the grassroots uprisings in the Philippines and Thailand represent economic frustrations.  Many of these people feel they have few opportunities for economic advancement and are frustrated by the lack of reforms in the system.  The government needs to address these issues as they affect all segments of society.


Q: Do you see any negative impact on Southeast Asia from the political drama in Thailand?


A: The situation in Thailand reaffirms the importance of the democratic process and the need for vigorous debate in the political arena.  The key point to understand is that we need to continue working on reforms that benefit people.  That was the impetus for protests in Thailand, coming from opposition groups and disaffected populations.


Q: What do you think Asean can do to bring about reform in Burma?


A: Asean can not turn a blind eye to egregious abuses of human rights by member states in the name of non-interference.  In order for Asean to enhance its relevance and prestige, it must address key issues in the region, ranging from economics and trade to abuses associated with migrant labor and human trafficking. Only by asserting its mandate to be a regional body with political and economic leverage can Asean put meaningful pressure on the ruling junta in Burma.


Q: How do you interpret Asean’s constructive engagement policy with Burma? Is it a total failure?


A: I am not convinced that Asean’s constructive engagement policy has helped balance power between the junta and opposition groups in Burma.  While I think that doing business can open avenues for dialogue, in this case we see there are business transactions taking place without any reciprocal moderation or reform from the Burmese government.

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