Monday, November 19, 2007

ASEAN and the international community: redefining dysfunctional

Christopher Smith
Mizzima News (

November 19, 2007 – With the 13th ASEAN summit about to kick into full gear in Singapore this week, it is time for a realistic assessment of what can be expected of ASEAN regarding the continuing crisis in Burma, and why ASEAN and the international community continue to pursue counterproductive policies.

In a press release this past weekend, Altsean-Burma advises that "ASEAN and its dialogue partners must adopt a common position to ensure that the Burmese military regime delivers genuine reforms within a clearly stated timeframe to strengthen and complement UN efforts."

This is precisely what needs to happen. However, ominously, the paper goes on to specify what that common position must be. In other words, it is not a call for dialogue, but rather a demand to adopt certain preordained policies. It is a fundamental error in strategy and negotiation to which all sides are presently guilty.

Though much has been made of the perceived benefits of a carrot and stick approach to Burma, especially in the footsteps of the United Nations Special Envoy to Burma's continuing mission, the fact remains that carrots and sticks do not work if there is no common goal, and it is entirely unclear whether ASEAN and the international community share the same vision with respect to Burma.

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