ONE of the organisations well-placed to put pressure on Myanmar to mend its dictatorial ways is ASEAN, the Association of South-East Nations. Unfortunately it has always put off expelling Myanmar from membership or taking any other form of action such as sanctions. Until now. At this week's annual meeting of Asean in Singapore the President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, told the delegates: “The belief of the Filipino people and the Philippine Congress, as well as my own, is that those who sign Asean's charter agree to the objectives, spirit and intent of establishing full human rights within Asean.” Mrs Arroyo's reference was to a new charter that Asean is adopting to mark its 40th anniversary, She continued: “The expectation of the Philippines is that if Myanmar signs the Charter, it is committed to returning to the path of democracy and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.” Asean has always been split on how to deal with Myanmar. The organisation's members range from the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore to Laos and Vietnam, and even some of the countries which might be expected to take a hard line have argued that to do so would risk increasing Myanmar's intransigence. Mrs Arroyo's interview will make all Asean's members think carefully about their attitude to Myanmar and her views might even filter through to the junta that rules that benighted country.


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