Sep 27, 2007

Burma: Epitomizing ASEAN's Insignificance

Singapore, one of Burma's biggest foreign investors, urged the country's military rulers on Thursday to exercise restraint in dealing with anti-government protests and to seek United Nations mediation.

Singapore's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it was "deeply troubled" by the violent suppression of demonstrations in Yangon and called on the junta that has run the country for 45 years to seek a peaceful resolution through the world body.

"We hope that the Myanmar authorities and all other parties in Myanmar will appreciate the broader implications of their actions on the region as a whole and act accordingly," the ministry said.

As Burma's military junta once again attempts to brutally suppress the peaceful calls for democracy, these lofty proclamations eminating from Singapore the current chair of ASEAN would seem to substantiate the accusations not only of ASEAN's insignificance, but of ASEAN's inability to live up to their own charter. As a geopolitical and economic organization who's aims and objectives supposedly include the acceleration of economic growth, social progress, and the promotion of regional peace, it would be expected that ASEAN currently led by Singapore would be willing to lead the initiative to help resolve the crisis in Burma rather than contributing 'lip service' to the crisis and expecting the United Nations to intervene in the matter. Considering that Singapore is one of Burma's largest trading partners and a beneficiary of ill-gotten gains by way of the monthly shopping trips and medical visits of Burma's military elites it's anyone's wonder how Singapore thinks that Malawi and Norway might lend a hand in helping to mediate the crisis.

After ten years it should have become painfully clear to ASEAN that the policy of non-intervention with Burma's recalcitrant regime has failed miserably. The events of the last several days have made it clear that Burma's military junta has no intention to loosen its grip on power and move the country towards democracy. The time for "constructive engagement" with General Than Shwe has long since passed. If ASEAN fails to act immediately and decisively in the matter then a "coalition of the willing" will be forced to handle the crisis.

Now that blood has been spilled, it is not just Burma who's international reputation will suffer, but the entire region of Southeast Asia.

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