Last week the Burmese Junta took the step of foregoing its chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for the coming year. The Association breathed a collective sigh of relief as it would have come to be regarded as somewhat of a joke with Burma at the helm, and certainly its ability to function effectively would have been negatively impinged.
The fact is that Burma is a political pariah. Neither the sticks nor the carrots of international diplomacy seem to be working in getting the Generals to behave. Human rights abuses, economic mismanagement bordering on the comedic and harsh crackdowns on ethnic groups means the Burmese administration remains out in the cold. But does their choice to forego their Chairmanship of ASEAN (due to the embarrassment in would have caused their neighbours and fellow ASEAN members) show that they are becoming susceptible to international pressure.
Well, the problem is that forgoing the leadership isn’t quite enough for them to be welcomed back into the international community with open arms. They could start with releasing opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is the only recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize to be incarcerated – a fine honour. Perhaps the use of mustard gas in the fight against ethnic insurgencies is a bit over the top too. Oh, and then there’s the economy, but let’s not get started on that…
The fact is that Burma has a long way to go. Their concession to give up the ASEAN chairmanship is a wilting rose in a sea of thorns and well… we don’t think Aung San Suu Kyi should be lacing up her jogging shoes just yet.