On 26 July 2005, the
SPDC withdrew its claim to the ASEAN chair, causing a massive loss
of face for Snr Gen Than Shwe and his cronies.
The move has been followed by intense
speculation – that Than Shwe has been ousted, and that the
military leadership will become further isolated from the concerns
of the international community. With the military regime in a weakened
state, now is the time for ASEAN and the international community
to push the junta towards genuine and comprehensive reforms for
democratization in Burma.
Also in the lead up to the decision,
over 200 prisoners were released, apparently in an attempt to appease
international opinion. Crackdowns on political dissent continue,
and the situation remains tense between the SPDC Army and ethnic
groups as the SPDC reinforces its military presence in several territories,
and opposition groups resist committing to the junta’s “road
Pressure on the junta leadership
has been exacerbated by the humanitarian crisis and failing economy.
The delivery of humanitarian aid is severely frustrated by junta
restrictions, while widespread food shortages continue.