Asean, Burma Relations over 10 Years

By The Irrawaddy

August 03, 2007—The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, founded in 1967 on the principle of economic cooperation in the region, marked its 40th anniversary at a ministerial level meeting in Manila last week.

It's also the 10th anniversary of Burma’s membership in Asean. Let’s look back and ask whether or not Burma's admission to Asean has been beneficial to Asean and Burma?

For Burma, Asean has served as an effective buffer which has safeguarded the generals from international pressure and sanctions and helped them to further oppress the already impoverished people of Burma.

For Asean, the organization has maintained its Burma stance of "constructive engagement," and later “flexible engagement,” hoping to moderate the isolated generals’ hard-line policies, while maintaining that sanctions and pressures imposed by the United States, the EU and other nations don’t work.

It's clear that neither engagement nor sanctions have changed the Burmese generals’ policies. Moreover, Burma has become a thorn in the international relations between the Asean bloc and the US and EU.

The recent Asean decision to form a regional Human Rights Commission has been met with Burma’s stiff opposition. Burma clearly wants no Asean involvement in its internal affairs.

It remains to be seen whether Asean will have the will and the means to push Burma towards national reconciliation and democracy. If the past is prelude, the future looks like more of the same in Asean-Burma relations.

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