Wednesday, July 27, 2005


So Myanmar has given up chairmanship of ASEAN. 'Tis a historical moment, this.

Jul 26, 5:21 AM EDT

Myanmar Gives Up 2006 ASEAN Chairmanship

VIENTIANE, Laos (AP) -- Myanmar agreed Tuesday to forgo its chairmanship of Southeast Asia's bloc next year to avoid a damaging Western boycott of the group's meetings.

The United States and the European Union had demanded that military-ruled Myanmar either move toward democracy and release pro-democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi or forfeit its turn at the rotating chairmanship of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations in late 2006.

Myanmar's Foreign Minister Nyan Win and fellow ASEAN ministers decided during a retreat Tuesday that the junta would relinquish the post, an ASEAN statement said. The chairmanship goes instead to next-in-line Philippines, that country's Foreign Minister Alberto Romulo said.

Nyan Win told colleagues that his government wanted to give its "full attention" to its "ongoing national reconciliation and democratization process," the ASEAN statement said.

"We agreed that once Myanmar is ready to take its turn to be the ASEAN chair, it can do so," the ASEAN ministers said in the statement.

The issue came to a head in Laos this week during the group's annual ministerial meeting that runs through Friday, followed by the ASEAN Regional Forum - a security dialogue with 14 other governments with interests in the region, such as the U.S., EU, Russia and China.

ASEAN's more rapidly developing countries had feared damage to their trade ties with the West if the chairmanship issue festered. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice skipped this week's meeting, sending a deputy instead, in what diplomats suspected could be a precursor to a full boycott.

Asia expert Larry Wortzel of The Heritage Foundation in Washington said that handing the chairmanship to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, would have been "foolish."

more here.

Well, the foreign ministers have given in to foreign pressure. Does this mean that ASEAN has been made vulnerable? Now that western and other external powers will yield their influence on our region, this association that constantly preached that regional sovereignty was key to ASEAN's position on the world stage.

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