ASEAN and Political Change in Myanmar: Towards a Regional Initiative?
- Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs
- ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
- Volume 30, Number 3, December 2008
- pp. 351-378
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ASEAN states have favoured diplomacy and peer pressure in order to sway Myanmar's military regime to release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political detainees and to promote national reconciliation. So far, ASEAN's combined efforts have not been very successful, although the generals are moving Myanmar beyond extra-constitutional rule. This paper asks whether, in the aftermath of the September 2007 protests, the constitutional referendum and Cyclone Nargis, there is much scope for a new regional effort to promote reconciliation and democratization in Myanmar that is additional to the support ASEAN offers for the good offices of the United Nations Secretary General. The paper sets out different positions held within ASEAN on promoting political change in Myanmar. It also examines the prospects for putting into practice recent ideas to address Myanmar's political situation in new regional settings. The paper concludes that: (1) significant difference characterize the Myanmar policy of individual ASEAN countries in line with varying interests and pressures, and dissimilar views on what —if anything —should be done to help Myanmar democratize; (2) Indonesia is the only ASEAN country to have conceptualized a possible regional diplomatic initiative, but its full implementation and success are far from certain.