Authoritarian regime to chair ASEAN in 2014

Will allowing Burma to chair the ASEAN regional bloc in 2014 help or hinder further ‘opening up’ of the authoritarian government?


After Burma’s prisoner release last month, ASEAN seems to feel that Burma has earned its place as chair of the association for its attempts at being more democratic.

The rotating responsibility of being chair to ASEAN, which had in the past been denied to Burma due to their poor human rights record, has been unanimously voted to Burma for 2014.

A move needed to be made as an incentive to Burma, to show that moves towards Democracy are rewarded with diplomatic inclusion.

Yet Burma will need to continue with these moves in order to gain the trust of the West, and to maintain the trust of Asian nations.

The new leadership in Burma, which was also responsible for freeing Aung Sang Suu Kyi, has removed legal obstacles that used to stand between the Democratic League of Burma and them gaining leadership.

Now Aung Sang Suu Kyi and her party are giving thought to re-entering the political scene.

Though the new leadership is showing good signs of improvement, it is still ultimately an authoritarian government, which has always been known for being defiant.

Rewarding Burma too early on may also hinder more progress to becoming a democratic state.

The 600 to 1,000 political prisoners who remain locked up will need to be let go before a remarkable reduction of isolation can happen for Burma.

Releasing only a fraction of the political prisoners in Burma is still not going to be enough for the likes of the US.

Their sanctions on Burma remain the same until significant change has occurred inside Burma.