November 19, 2007

STILL SURPRISED?:

Surprise Pressure From Myanmar’s Neighbors (WAYNE ARNOLD, 11/19/07, NY Times)

At an informal dinner between heads of state Monday night at the five-star Shangri-La Hotel here, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines directly addressed the problem.

“The belief of the Filipino people and the Philippine Congress, as well as my own, that those who will sign the Charter agree to the objective, spirit and intent of establishing a human rights body — the full protection of human rights within Asean,” she said, reading out a prepared statement, a copy of which was forwarded to reporters. “With this in mind, the expectation of the Philippines is that if Myanmar signs the Charter, it is committed to returning to the path of democracy and release Aung San Suu Kyi. Until the Philippine Congress sees that happen, it would have extreme difficulty in ratifying the Asean Charter.” [...]

[W]hile Asean members like Laos and Vietnam have defended Myanmar and condemned Western sanctions, others have been gradually losing their tolerance.

The clearest sign of a shift under way was Asean’s public reaction to the crackdown in Myanmar — it demanded a stop to the violence, expressed its revulsion and called for the release of political detainees.

“It was very un-Asean-like language,” said Dave Mathieson at Human Rights Watch in Thailand.

Even Singapore, which has perhaps the most extensive trade and investments with Myanmar of Asean’s members, has begun debating its relationship with the junta. Singapore’s foreign minister was even obliged recently to explain the country’s trade ties with Myanmar to the country’s Parliament, where he dismissed Singapore’s arms exports to Myanmar as “insignificant.”

It was Singpaore that invited Mr. Gambari, the United Nations envoy, to give a briefing on the situation in Myanmar on Wednesday afternoon. After Myanmar expressed its objections, The A.P. reported, other Asean members — including Malaysia and Indonesia — rejected the briefing as inappropriate.

Earlier in the day, Mrs. Arroyo met one-on-one with Myanmar’s prime minister and read him her statement.

The new Asean charter commits members to strengthening democracy and protecting human rights, and calls for the establishment of an Asean human rights body.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 19, 2007 6:38 PM
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