pressure from ASEAN has forced the Burmese regime to back off from
claiming the coveted chair for 2006. Although billed as “Burma’s
own decision”, the move – affecting the regime’s
credibility and prestige – was a defeat for regime head Senior-General
Burma’s decision to relinquish
its turn at the ASEAN chairmanship shows that persistent pressure
works, and it works most effectively when applied from within ASEAN.
Although being forced to relinquish the chairmanship was undoubtedly
a success for ASEAN and the Burma democracy movement, it was only
one of many steps towards the country achieving a genuine democracy.
Moving beyond the chairmanship,
ASEAN should now insist the junta set a clear timetable in fulfilling
its long-standing pledge to ASEAN and the international community
to commence a genuine and inclusive process towards democratization
in Burma. In this process, ASEAN should engage with China and India
– both countries which have significant influence and business
ties with the regime – to convince them that a free, democratic
and prosperous Burma presents a better business case and strategic
partner than the bankrupt, pariah state it is now.