by MONITOR
MYANMAR (formerly Burma) and Zimbabwe are both rogue states that are an embarrassment to their neighbours. However, while other African countries are unwilling to put any pressure on Zimbabwe by cold-shouldering President Mugabe, the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have had some success in persuading the military rulers of Myanmar that they should take a lower profile in Asean's affairs. The annual meetings of Asean are held rotationally in each of its members' capitals and the 2006 gathering was due to take place in Rangoon; to say that this would be an embarrassment to Asean and to the rest of the world which refuses to deal with Myanmar is an understatement. Fortunately, the pressure which Asean members have been putting on the Myanmar government has produced results. Yesterday the military regime said that it would forgo its turn as chairman of the 2006 meeting until “it is ready to take its turn”; clearly this climbdown was undertaken reluctantly and only at the last minute afer months of private and public pressure. This year's Asean meeting in Vientiane, Laos, can go ahead without the shadow of Myanmar's imminent chairmanship over it. However, for the first time since Asean was formed the US Secretary of State will not attend the meeting; Condoleezza Rice announced this some weeks ago, citing pressure of other business. Some will interpret her shunning of the meeting as a warning that Asean had beter cut its links with Myanmar but the view of of the Asian countries is that it is better to maintain contacts with the military regime than to isolate it. Thus far their policy has yielded little; the regime remains obscurantist and the elected leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, remains under house arrest with no prospect of freedom.

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