November 24, 2007
ASEAN : Mynamar Crisis
ASEAN leaders expected to strengthen position on Myanmar
ASEAN leaders are expected to strengthen their position on Myanmar in the next few months, said ASEAN Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong, who also stressed that much is at stake in the grouping's programmes with its dialogue partners.
He was at the launch of a book on ASEAN's economic integration - entitled "Brick by Brick", produced by Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) - on Friday.
Myanmar's Prime Minister Thein Sein told his ASEAN colleagues at the ASEAN Summit that his country wants to be left alone to deal with its problems which he felt were domestic issues. But Mr Ong noted that the rest of the world did not see it that way.
He said: "We can't just say ASEAN will leave the Myanmar issue purely to Myanmar because our partners are now not letting us off the hook. They have postponed many of our ASEAN meetings with them.
"They have delayed our ASEAN negotiations on certain specific agreements because they cannot move their domestic opinion on Myanmar. So we have to come up with some plausible explanation to allow them to help us. I think in the coming months we need to talk to the Myanmar side to find a way out of all this."
Myanmar has made it clear during the recent ASEAN Summit that it wants to deal directly with the United Nations.
ASEAN's leaders said they respect Myanmar's decision, and at the same time, the 10-member organisation is also prepared to help Myanmar move forward its national reconciliation plan.
As many observers have pointed out, the UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari's mission is the only possible solution.
Mr Ong said: "From our interaction with the Europeans yesterday, they are all behind the Gambari mission. Actually, the Gambari mission represents the UN mission. So if the UN is not allowed do something like that, then what else can we hope for?
"I think the important point here is that nobody disagrees with the Myanmar assertion that this is something of their own domestic affair. But beyond that, this has become an issue on the international stage.
"You may say that it is your own private issue, but people want to continue to intervene, so how do you respond? You cannot just absent yourself. We have to find a way to bring our friends to deal with this issue."
Beyond Myanmar, Mr Ong also noted that exciting times are ahead for the new ASEAN secretary-general and the secretariat who will be busy with the Charter and the Economic Blueprint's implementation.
To help companies address the challenges brought about by the integration process, the book "Brick by Brick" has been published by the ISEAS. The book is a collection of studies on ASEAN economic integration over the last five years.
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