ASEAN needs to do some soul-searching on Myanmar

by AMIR AZLAN / Pic by TMR FILE PIX

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) needs to do some soul searching regarding its non-interference principles on behalf of the Myanmar issue, said Malaysia Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.
 
“The very main issue about ASEAN mechanism, on one hand, we have the principle of non-interference in the domestic politics of one another. On the other hand, ASEAN realises that principles of non-interferences cannot be applied separately from or above other ASEAN principles of strengthening democracy, promoting and protecting human rights, good governance and the rule of law.
 
“There is simply a lot at stake for ASEAN as a rules-based organisation to maintain its unity, centrality and credibility which formed an important foundation to ensure that the organization would not turn obsolete and ineffective,” he said in his opening remarks in 2nd Regional Dialogue On Human Rights And Democratisation in Myanmar.
 
He added that ASEAN and its members could reconsider to amends its non-interference principles to make it more relevant to the context of the organization, suggesting to redefine the concepts of constructive engagement and also use African Union as a model of which they had moved from the principles of non-interference to principles of non-indifference.
 
“Otherwise if non-interference is defined in a way that it is defined today in the ASEAN chapter perhaps could be the very reason that sometimes we find that it is very difficult for us and make us slow in making decisions or not very effective in the decision that we make. This may require some serious thinking among academics, activists and leaders of the ASEAN member states,” said the minister.
Assean’s move to not invite the leader of the military junta of Myanmar to the ASEAN summit, Saifuddin said, is unprecedented and is a departure from the principles itself.
 
Based on previous development, the leader of the junta was excluded from the summit due to its shortfall in regard to its progress on a peace plan (ASEAN five-point consensus) it agreed to in April.
 
However, Reuters reported, a non-political figure from Myanmar will be invited instead in a decision that was said to be pushed by Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines.