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ASEAN interferes in Burma's interna

Subject: ASEAN interferes in Burma's internal affairs

Mainichi Daily News, Sunday, December 22, 1996


With Respect

by Peter Hadfield

	At a summit meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations earlier
this month, the distinguished ASEAN leaders promised to let Burma join their
club, in due course.  They saw nothing odd about warming to a country run by
a military dictatorship -- possibly because the track record of other ASEAN
countries is not much better.
	ASEAN's main argument is a familiar one:  Trade has nothing to do with
human rights.  If Burma wants to join ASEAN as a trading partner, other
members are not going to question its morals or ethics.  They do not, in the
parlance of the region, interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.
	Unfortunately, ASEAN leaders are missing a rather crucial point.  Like it
or not, they ARE interfering in Burma's internal affairs.
	Trading with Burma today means having to do business with its military
rulers, simply because they have a financial stake in just about every major
project in the country, from oil exploration to hotel development.  Doing
business with the generals means financially rewarding and propping up a
regime that is ruling illegally -- and putting at a disadvantage the real
government that was overwhelmingly chosen by Burmese people in a 1990
general election.  If that is not interfering in Burma's internal affairs
then Gen. Than Shwe is a banana.
	Curiously enough, Western governments that advocate having nothing to do
with Burma are accused by ASEAN of "interfering"in its internal affairs."
Funny old world.