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Four Reasons Why Burma Does Not Deserve the 2014 ASEAN Chair
Posted By Robert Warshaw On November 16, 2011 @ 4:45 pm In American Leadership | No Comments
According to press reports, the foreign ministers of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc have approved Burma’s request for the 2014 chairmanship. The approval comes after a series of reforms from the quasi-civilian government in Naypyidaw, such as the release of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, the amnesty of some political prisoners, and modest reforms to the political system.
The steps that the Burmese government has taken are certainly very welcome. It could be that these reforms are real and not just window-dressing to garner concessions from the international community—if so, we would be among the first to celebrate . Indeed, Aung San Suu Kyi , who has spent more than three-quarters of the last two decades in detention, believes that Burmese President Thein Sein is “genuine in his desire for change,” but also noted that “a lot of work needs to be done.”
However, Burma has not demonstrated that its reforms are sufficiently far-reaching, authentic, or irreversible to merit the chairmanship. The 2014 ASEAN chairmanship is a massive concession; its allure is widely assumed to be a major driver of the reform process. The following four reasons highlight why, based on current conditions on the ground, Burma does not yet deserve the chairmanship.
ASEAN has yet to officially award Burma the 2014 chairmanship, but it is planning to make the announcement during the ASEAN summit in the next few days. However, the summit is in no way an official deadline for a decision, only an arbitrary one. To that end, until Burma credibly demonstrates more transparent steps toward reform by releasing political prisoners, brokering an internationally respected cease-fire with ethnic minorities, and severing all ties with North Korea, ASEAN should withhold the chairmanship.
There is simply no reason to rush a decision on this matter. ASEAN must calmly adopt a wait-and-see approach, encouraging more reform but withholding the chairmanship until the sustainability and irreversibility of the reforms is guaranteed. This is an ASEAN decision, and its members should heed the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus’s recommendation that ASEAN delay its decision  until Burma enacts more credible reforms.
If Burma does continue on the path of genuine reform, it may very well deserve the chairmanship in 2014. Before then, however, serious issues remain that must be addressed.
Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News Blog from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org
URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2011/11/16/four-reasons-why-burma-does-not-deserve-the-2014-asean-chair/
URLs in this post:
 the first to celebrate: http://www.heritage.org/Events/2011/10/Burma-Policy
 Aung San Suu Kyi: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/burmamyanmar/8889211/Aung-San-Suu-Kyi-marks-one-year-of-freedom-in-Burma.html
 200 political prisoners: http://blog.heritage.org/2011/10/12/with-burma-the-devil-is-in-the-details/
 U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma,: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5g9B4QLPeZLIA9vrUs7KGupwGBbUQ?docId=CNG.f8bc9b3d249ba6c92300adeffdb896f0.71
 ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus: http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=22449
 possible nuclear developments: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11966136
 U.S. engagement: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/09/do-not-back-down-on-burma
 delay its decision: http://www.todayonline.com/World/EDC111116-0000071/Myanmar-may-well-chair-ASEAN-in-2014
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