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Asean Affairs  17 May 2011

Myanmar leaders must deal with reality

By  David Swartzemtruber

AseanAffairs     17 May 2011

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Two political decisions have put the brakes on the rush of Myanmar’s leaders to gain world acceptance of their new political framework.

The first came at the Asean Summit a week ago in Jakarta when Asean put the question of Myanmar assuming the Asean chairmanship in 2014 on hold. A statement from the current chair, Indonesia, only reiterated support for the steady progress and political development in Burma following a general election and the formation of a new government.

"We considered the proposal of Myanmar to host the Asean summit in 2014, based on its commitment to the principles of Asean," the statement said.

It is likely Asean will make a final decision later in the year, probably in October.

Some Asean countries, notably neighbor Thailand, favor the Myanmar chairmanship. Thailand has major investments in Myanmar in energy resources and the construction of a new port and industrial complex.

Today, US President Obama renewed sanctions on Myanmar urging the military-backed regime to go much further after it reduced prisoners' terms by just one year.

It is largely felt in Asia that the sanctions have not deterred Myanmar’s leaders, they are still there, but they have hurt the Myanmar people.

Nevertheless, both Asean and the US are going slow with Myanmar as the election was called a “sham” not only by overseas Myanmar dissidents but by every entity that was aware of the way the election was engineered.

The election was engineered to continue the dominance of the military junta in the country and resembled the one-party pseudo-elections that communist countries once staged. And some continue to hold them. The military simply exchanged their uniforms for civilian clothing.

Therefore, the skepticism of both the US and Asean are well-founded in reality, while the Myanmar leadership continues to live entrapped by the monolitihic world and mindset it has created.

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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