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4/20/2006

asean founding fathers turning in their graves

ASEAN was conceived at a time when the cold war was at its peak and the western powers were competing with the soviet bloc for influence around the world. The communist powers were also very active supporting local communist insurgencies. And America was doing all it can to wrestle control and influence in all the governments in Southeast Asia. One of the key pillars of ASEAN then was neutrality and non interference in the national affairs of other countries, and stood strongly against the big powers from interfering in their domestic politics. In recent weeks we are hearing the voices of ASEAN in another form. ASEAN now sees it as proper to interfere in Myanmar's domestic politics, insisting that Myanmar must take the democratic road, more political freedom and human rights. I am not in favour of the tight military control of the Myanmar govt on its people. Pushing Myanmar towards democracy and more political freedom is a good thing for the people of Myanmar. But this persistence call for the Myanmar govt to change, this call for China and India to squeeze Myanmar to change, demanding the military junta to take concrete steps towards democratic process, are they not interfering with another country's domestic politics? For ASEAN to adopt this course of action, does it mean that ASEAN now accepts that it is alright for other countries to interfere in their domestic politics? This is a principle that applies both ways. Once this is recognised, ASEAN must accept it if other big powers start to meddle with their own political systems. It is only a matter of time before the brick that ASEAN is hurling at Myanmar will come back and smack them right in the middle of their faces. And when it happens, Myanmar will be laughing and say, what goes round will come around. At the moment, the Eminent Persons Group is gathering in Bali 'to remake and reposition the grouping to face the challenges ahead.' Change is in the air as Prof Jayakumar said, 'We can't just do more of the same of what we've been doing. We've been doing fine but projecting the next few decades, we have to rethink and remake ASEAN.' And one of the key pillars of ASEAN, non interference in other countries domestic affairs is slated to go. And the founding fathers of ASEAN must be turning in their graves.

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