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Asean Affairs  6 May 2011

Myanmar again troubles Asean

By  David Swartzemtruber

AseanAffairs     6 May 2011

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Even though Myanmar recently held an election, the other Asean countries remained unconvinced of its democratic values as Myanmar makes a bid for the 2014 Asean chairmanship.

The latest reported move is to defer the decision to later this year. Deferral is a common approach in Southeast Asia, when a really tough issue has to be decided. The same “deferral” process is going on in the decision process about building the Xayaburi dam on the lower Mekong River.

Indonesia’s Foreign Minister and acting Asean chair, Marty Natalegawa, said that a fact-finding trip will be taken to Myanmar and that trip will include a meeting with Myanmar opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The previous time that Myanmar was poised to take the chairmanship in 2006, it withdrew in the midst of strong opposition from the West, particularly the United States.

The Myanmar government has known about the fact-finding mission as it was informed about the procedure at the Asean foreign ministers meeting in Bangkok in April.

Natalegawa acknowledges that the election, the new government and the civilian administration are new wrinkles on the Myanmar fruit but the question is, “Is the fruit underneath still rotten?”

The new Thein Sein regime sees its ascension to the Asean chairmanship as a proof of being “legit,” however, in his pre-Asean Summit statements, Foreign Minister Natalegawa, seems equally indisposed to being used as a tool of the Myanmar government.

Asean now has Myanmar in a “tit for tat” situation. If Myanmar is allowed to take the chair, what concessions can Asean extract to bring Myanmar closer to the ideals embodied in the Asean Charter.

The fact-finding trip is scheduled for the next few weeks following the Asean Summit scheduled for this weekend in Jakarta.

From press statements, the Indonesian Foreign Minister seems well prepared to deal with the vexsome Myanmar issue.

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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