Myanmar chairs ASEAN

A changing Myanmar learns some new skills:

After operating for years as a law unto itself outside the sphere of international standards, Myanmar’s government will have to balance the nation’s diplomacy — an effort to get closer to the United States and Europe while keeping China on its side — with leadership of Asean, Myanmar officials said.
Asean has long worked on the premise that countries cannot intervene in each other’s domestic affairs, and consensus must be reached on all policies. Myanmar will be at the center of trying to forge consensus, especially among members that lean toward China and those that do not.
“The first challenge is how we can adjust Myanmar’s foreign policy,” said U Zaw Htay, a director at the Myanmar President’s Office

via Myanmar in Lead Role at Regional Meeting

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4 thoughts on “Myanmar chairs ASEAN

  1. rgettys says:

    Considering the racially and politically charged violence with minority groups in Myanmar that has happened even within the last decade (like the Karen, many of which are refugees living here in Utah), the history of being a country controlled by corrupt regional warlords, and the Muslim-Buddhist strife that goes on today, I feel that it is extraordinary that Myanmar qualifies to be the seat. In Thailand this summer, people were crossing the borders like crazy to get out of Myanmar. I was able to meet with scholars who had themselves escaped from Myanmar and meet with others who had businesses in which they sent the bulk of their income back home to fund democratic movements.

    I hope the best for Myanmar, but definitely see it as a challenge for them to build unanimous consensus in the region on anything. Time will tell I suppose, and I am excited to see what will proceed from their chairing of the summit.

  2. jacobbills says:

    (Disclaimer: My dad is part of the US Mission to ASEAN so I’m fairly well versed and biased in this topic).

    First, Myanmar qualifies to be the seat because it is Myanmar’s turn to be the seat. This has been in progress for years (I know for sure at least two, probably more) and is according to a rotating schedule. Human rights doesn’t really have much to do with this, otherwise most of the member states should not chair.

    The balancing between China, the ASEAN nations and the “West” is definitely an interesting and delicate and in a strange way, Myanmar might be the best country to steer discussion towards the West. It’s isolation has, in a way, created less baggage to deal with than some of the other countries in the region and, as noted in the article, it may be pro-China but it seems to be almost a Moldova-Russia-like relationship. In general, I’ve seen that ASEAN as a whole wants more US involvement, if nothing to act a counterweight to China and its ambitions. (Aside: Of course budget concerns and partisan in-fighting have severely reduced the United States’ ability to do this but diplomacy is never in the American public’s interest, amirite?) The article mentions the South China Sea issue, but there are also many economic and trade concerns where ASEAN could benefit from a powerful nation to hold China back.

    In short, this is good for Myanmar and hopefully ASEAN as a whole. Cambodia was able to pull this off last year and I think Myanmar can next year.

  3. alexkhirst says:

    Though, I like regettys, am amazed Myanmar was able to qualify for a chair on ASEAN, I think its participation in the organization could only be a positive experience. Because Myanmar struggles with maintaining human rights, being a part of ASEAN will persuade the country to follow more international standards. However, I do also believe Myanmar has a long way to come in order to become more of an international authority. ASEAN will be a beneficial part of this process of transformation, as working with other countries and experiences different viewpoints beyond the country’s own will help Myanmar modernize.

  4. clintkunz says:

    I agree with the above comment and I really like this piece by NPR: Planet Money because it shows how far behind Myanmar actually is:
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/06/11/190746413/episode-465-myanmar-opens-up

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