Monday, April 18, 2005


Testy times for ASEAN...again!

A huge debate rages over ASEAN in the past two weeks regarding Myanmar's assumption of the ASEAN Chairmanship next year. While all the other ASEAN members are supporting Yangon, Thailand wants a "constructive engagement", while Singapore, Malaysia and most especially the Philippines wants a clearer roadmap towards democracy, the release of leader Aung San Suu Kyi (her party won the elections but were not allowed to rule), among other thorny issues that once again puts the ASEAN brotherhood to the test.

This issue is important to the Philippines as it takes upon itself a role more associated with it - the fight for freedom and democracy, being the first republic in the region. Despite its checkered history regarding on-and-off support of this cause (the East Timor case is a bad spot on Philippine foreign policy, if we all recall), it is good to know that it is leading ASEAN again in this cause of fighting for the rights and freedom of the Burmese.

ASEAN, however, has its nuances. Known to be very non-chalant about internal affairs of its neighbors, it is only recently that ministers are starting to be vocal about what they think of each other. Whether this attitude has a future, and whether it will be good for the ASEAN in the long run, is something we have yet to see.

For now, Myanmar is insisting it will still take over the Chairmanship while everyone else is seething at the thought. Hmmmm... interesting times ahead indeed.

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