Thursday, July 13, 2006

Does Myanmar deserve ASEAN?

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

Edmund Burke Irish orator, philosopher, & politician (1729 - 1797)


The quote by Burke aptly describes the situation with regards to Myanmar (formerly Burma) and the rest of the world.

I will be using the name "Myanmar" instead of "Burma" for the sake of uniformity.

Amongst the notoriety associated with the military dictators of Myanmar, the one that sticks out most has to be the inhuman way in which Daw (Mdm) Aung San Suu Kyi has been treated.

Aung San Suu Kyi (pronounced Ong San Soo Chee), Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate, was born on June 19th, 1945 to Myanmar's independence hero, Aung San.
She was educated in Burma, India, and the United Kingdom and while studying at Oxford University, she met Michael Aris, a Tibet scholar whom she married in 1972.

On March 27 1999, while Aung San Suu Kyi was in Myanmar, Michael Aris died of cancer in London. He had not seen Aung San Suu Kyi since Christmas 1995 and was refused one last visit with her before he died.

Aung San Suu Kyi had returned to Myanmar in 1988 to nurse her dying mother and was immediately plunged into the country's nationwide democracy uprising. Joining the newly-formed National League for Democracy (NLD), she was literally involved in a life and death struggle for freedom and democracy.

The military regime responded to the uprising with brute force, killing up to 5,000 demonstrators. Unable to maintain its grip on power, the regime was forced to call a general election in 1990.

Unfortunately, the elections, which was won by the NLD with a staggering 82% of parliamentary seats was never recognized by the regime. And Aung San Suu Kyi has been in and out of arrest ever since.

The latest instalment in the long litany of injustices was played out only this year.

On 20 May 2006, Ibrahim Gambari, UN Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs, met with Aung San Suu Kyi, the first visit by a foreign official since 2004. Her house arrest term was set to expire 27 May 2006, but despite initial hopes, the Myanmar government extended it for another year,flouting a direct appeal from U.N. General Secretary Kofi Annan to Than Shwe.

Such is their disregard and contempt for justice and the opinions of the rest of the civilised world.

The geopolitics of Burma and her neighbors (ASEAN, India and China) are highly complex and here are some links readers will find relevant.(ASEAN and China & India)

So What's ASEAN to do? (11 July 2006 Channel Newsasia)

What piques me no end is that although our Foreign Ministry acknowledges that this dictatorship continues to be a problem, and from time to time, ASEAN and Singapore do make perfunctionary calls for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and for an earlier roadmap and time frame for democracy, there is no political will by Singapore and our ASEAN partners to do the obvious, viz expel Myanmar on grounds that she does not deserve to be a part of us despite the geographical proximity.

Her regime's poor human rights record puts Myanmar a gulf apart from the rest of ASEAN (not that we are exactly exemplary in that aspect).

My guess is that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will remain incarcerated until the end of her life.

And, none of our national leaders will do anything more than spew out hot air, now and then.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has called on people around the world to join the struggle for freedom in her beloved Burma ( she probably prefers this name) , saying

"Please use your liberty to promote ours".

Let us not forget her. One day, we may need people like her to help us!

Dr. Huang Shoou Chyuan

relevant links:

The Burma Campaign UK Home Page

Wikipedia on Myanmar(Burma) & Aung San Suu Kyi

Addendum: (I add here a useful comment by a reader KiweTo)

KiWeTO said...
The root question is: What ideology does Singapore as a country subscribe to?

Do we build upon the civic structure left behind by our own colonial masters?

Do we worry incessantly about being destroyed by our neighbours for existing as a little red dot?

Do we attempt to shame the world into action by being the best example of a modern society?

Do we even know if we have an agenda at the international politics arena, or are we just another pawn, reacting to ever shifting sands?----------------

ASEAN was never designed to be political. For some reason, when ASEAN was formed, there was this policy of non-intervention in internal issues.

How one can divorce economics from politics of human societies, I do wonder, but hey, that's what ASEAN was founded upon - economic cooperation, not political solidarity.

To expect ASEAN to ever come out with a strong political statement, is to expect the European Union to stop harping on human rights. Its just not in their reason for existence.

At the end of the day, if Russia can get away with economic murder (see the Yukos fiasco), and there are always people (even BritishPetroleum) willing to forget the past, principles will be compromised for the sake of economic profit.

ASEAN is not a political creature. It is an economic creature. It is perfectly fine for ASEAN to "get into bed" with Myanmar because that is ASEAN's purpose.

At the core of all international politics, it must be "beggar-thy-neighbour" that ultimately rules self-interest. Simply put, not my house, not my problem. That is the basis premise of SG's official stand on non-intervention.E.o.M.

My comments to Kiweto:

Hi KiweTo,

We started as a socialist country ( yes, can you believe that?) but then we got kicked out of Socialist International ( but to be fair, we had discarded our socialist credentials long ago & would have resigned sooner or later).

What then are we now? A crass Capitalist? I don't think so, with so much state intervention from Temasek-linked firms and monopolies.

We don't have any ideologies and even more frightening, we don't have any IDEALISMS!

We are pragmatists that appear to bend with the political winds and erstwhile, the western wind seems suitable for us now.

Next century, my bet is that we will be bending the other way with the eastern wind of China!

Did you say Shaming the world by being a example? I think not.

Now Sg convenient cites "non-intervention" as the reason for inaction. Some big wigs in the party are probably wary that if we interfer with Myanmar now, might not our neighbors kick us out of ASEAN if they deem our human rights record not as shiny as their own?

Thus, safer to mind our own business right?

I also intend to post something about Cambodia, another ASEAN back-water and human tragedy.

How all of us ( in ASEAN and the world) twiddled our thumbs and sat on our behinds whilst hundreds of thousands of S E Asians were exterminated in our own backyards.

Cheers. Have a happy weekend,

Dr. Huang

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, very true! Aung Sung Suu Kyi and the people of Myanmar need all the support and help that they can get.

And while we are at it, why not spare a thought for Tibet and its unfortunate people who have been under the yoke of China since 1950?

internet chatterbox said...

To my knowledge, Singapore's foreign policy is based on self-interest (sucking up as long as there is money to be made). Moreover, the last thing Singapore wants to do is to make endorse the arguments that poor human rights record is a basis for expulsion from international or regiional groupings.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi anonymous & internet chatterbox
Yes ASSK deserve our support but the reality is that foreign policy of many countries are based on self-interest. Myanmar has lots of oil and gas and India & China are fighting to get into bed with her. ASEAN no action talk only (NATO) cos it is afraid to lose out if Myanmar co-habit with India/China. Anyway, In ASEAN who cares for human rights? The will just see ASSK rot. How pathetic!
Dr. Huang

KiWeTO said...

The root question is: What ideology does Singapore as a country subscribe to?

Do we build upon the civic structure left behind by our own colonial masters?

Do we worry incessantly about being destroyed by our neighbours for existing as a little red dot?

Do we attempt to shame the world into action by being the best example of a modern society?

Do we even know if we have an agenda at the international politics arena, or are we just another pawn, reacting to ever shifting sands?
----------------
ASEAN was never designed to be political. For some reason, when ASEAN was formed, there was this policy of non-intervention in internal issues.

How one can divorce economics from politics of human societies, I do wonder, but hey, that's what ASEAN was founded upon - economic cooperation, not political solidarity.

To expect ASEAN to ever come out with a strong political statement, is to expect the European Union to stop harping on human rights. Its just not in their reason for existence.

At the end of the day, if Russia can get away with economic murder (see the Yukos fiasco), and there are always people (even BritishPetroleum) willing to forget the past, principles will be compromised for the sake of economic profit.

ASEAN is not a political creature. It is an economic creature. It is perfectly fine for ASEAN to "get into bed" with Myanmar because that is ASEAN's purpose.

At the core of all international politics, it must be "beggar-thy-neighbour" that ultimately rules self-interest.

Simply put, not my house, not my problem. That is the basis premise of SG's official stand on non-intervention.

E.o.M.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi KiweTo,
We started as a socialist country ( yes, can you believe that?) but then we got kicked out of Socialist International ( but to be fair, we had discarded our socialist credentials long ago & would have resigned sooner or later). What then are we now? A crass Capitalist? I don't think so, with so much state intervention from Temasek-linked firms and monopolies.
We don't have any ideologies and even more frightening, we don't have any IDEALISMS!
We are pragmatists that appear to bend with the political wind and erstwhile, the western wind seem suitable for us now. Next century, my bet is that we will be bending the other way with the eastern wind of China!
Shaming the world by being a example? I think not.
Now Sg convenient cites "non-intervention" as the reason for inaction. Some big wigs in the party is probably wary that if we interfer with Myanmar now, might not our neighbors kick us out of ASEAN if they deem our human rights record not as shiny as their own? Thus, safer to mind our own business right?
I intend to post something about Cambodia, another ASEAN back-water and human tragedy. How all of us twiddled our thumbs and sat on our behinds whilst hundreds of thousands of S E Asian were exterminated in our own backyards.
Cheers. Have a happy weekend,
Dr. Huang

Calamity Man said...

to a certain extent, i covered this as well.

http://the-commentator.blogspot.com/2006/05/superwoman.html

there is no doubt myanmmar IS a part of SEA. whether they deserve to be a part of ASEAN on the other hand is questionable.

ASEAN members, especially malaysia have come forward to broker a path towards democracy for the country but their leaders apparently do not take it seriously.

i think they want to be left out, just like north korea and cuba. usually people in countries such as these have to go through a lot.

their heads of state in theory are for communism but in reality, they only use their countries' resources to make themselves richer while their people suffer.

Gerald said...

Singapore's foreign policy is based on pragmatism not moralism. There is not much pragmatic [read: economic] advantage to be gained from supporting ASSK against the Myanmar generals. Keep in mind that we have lots of businessmen operating in Myanmar, whose businesses could suffer if Singapore starts offending the generals. Nevertheless, you have rightly pointed out that there is a moral aspect to this which Singapore should not turn a blind eye to. So far, the Govt has been under no pressure from Singaporeans to act against Myanmar, unlike in the EU and US where there are pro-democracy lobby groups. If more Singaporeans start speaking out, it could give the S'pore Govt some impetus to put pressure on the generals to implement the Road Map and release ASSK.

http://singaporepatriot.blogspot.com/

nofearSingapore said...

Hi calamity man & sg patriot,
I guess we face an uphill task even getting our govts to seriously consider chastising Myanmar in view of Sg's apparent self-interest and lack of idealism in foreign affairs.
I will just just try to keep worthy regional concerns on everyone's radar screen by bringing up issues to prick our collective conscience now and then. If not, like they say, out of sight, out of mind.
Good evening all of you,
Dr.H

Indi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.