Monday, June 16, 2003
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Same story, different worlds
As worldwide pressure grows on the Burmese junta to release Aung San Suu Kyi, media reaction has differed on Colin Powell's rhetorically tough approach. Here's the International Herald-Tribune:
In this version of events, the West has shamed the East into action.
Now, consider this Bangkok Post version of events:
Who's right? One is tempted to dismiss the Post version of events, since it includes a passsage in which Mahathir Mohammed, Malaysia's president, is chagrined at the thought of the Burmese junta taking over the ASEAN presidency in 2006. Mahathir's own actions suggest he is hardly the most democratic of leaders. Furthermore, the "quiet diplomacy" argument has the advantage of nonfalsifiability.
And yet, there is a difference between someone like Mahathir, who has some respect for the rule of law, and the thugs of Burma. And the Post is correct in observing that rhetorical pressure is unlikely to have any effect, and that economic sanctions will not work unless China actively participates, which is highly unlikely.
In the end, however, the most significant fact in this story is not the immediate effect on Burma, but the effect on ASEAN. The organization recognizes that its non-intervention policy needs to evolve, in part due to Western pressure. Its members are either actual democracies -- Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines -- or are rhetorically committed to democracy -- Signapore, Malaysia, Cambodia. Furthermore, local crises, such as the 1997-98 financial panic or the SARS outbreak, generally force greater regional openness.
I don't hold out much hope for a democratic Burma anytime soon. An ASEAN that recognizes the value of democracy, however, is an intriguing possibility.
Developing....posted by Dan on 06.16.03 at 11:44 PM