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 5 of 6)

Constructive engagement is meaningless without diplomacy and pressure on Rangoon to address issues, such as the treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi.


Q: What do you think about the approach of Asean, Thailand and Mahathir [Mohamad, former Malaysian prime minister] to Burma? What else can be done?


A: I believe that Asean can play a larger role in Burma.  Asean is well placed to act as a mediator between competing regional interests.  Asean has made some small strides in addressing Burma, making a statement last December calling on the military junta to release political detainees and to get serious about introducing democracy.  In the face of such intransigence, however, Burma should not be coddled and coaxed into reform as those who would advance the Asian values thesis, which has been thoroughly and convincingly debunked by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen.


Q: Is Burma damaging Asean and its relations with other countries?


A: Burma is Asean’s greatest embarrassment and failure. The lack of dialogue and continued human rights abuses and lack of freedom continue to reflect negatively on Asean’s role as a relevant regional decision-making body. Asean must continue to engender regional cooperation to put greater pressure on Burma for reform.


Q: Are US sanctions and diplomatic tough talk right? Should Asean take their lead from this?


A: Asean must take a leadership role in assisting the conflict [resolution] in Burma.

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