Living in the UK, one constantly comes across literature concerning human rights issues in Burma (Myanmar). The thrust of human rights and informational campaigns is to isolate the state of Myanmar. But not so in Bangladesh. Indeed probably not so in all of the ASEAN countries. The approach in ASEAN countries is one of ‘constructive engagement.’ The idea is to overlook the relentless abuse of human rights carried out by the bizarrely named military rulers of Myanmar - the State Peace and Development Council - and instead to draw Myanmar into a variety of economic linkages and from there to bring about incremental change. Well that is the idea and it has to be said it is not working well. (See for example progress on forced-labour - I mean lack of). I also have to say that I find myself in the horrible position of agreeing with Condoleeza Rice, the blood thirsty US Secretary of State who described Myanmar as an “outpost of tyranny.” ASEAN should wake up to that reality and take the necessary steps ….. some chance.

No. Instead the talk amongst the countries in Asia is all about how to get Myanmar gas. If you are a bureaucrat in Bangladesh it is how to levy money from India and Myanmar for any future pipelines. Or perhaps about the Dhaka to Yangon road link. Sometimes there is talk about the Rohingya refugees but never about the persecution that creates the refugees in the first place.

The news out of Myanmar is consistently and depressingly bad. Only yesterday the extent of the SPDC government’s annual cull of Karens hit the pages: 11,000 Displaced as Burma Army Kills Civilians (see photo below of nine year old kid who was shot and survived). .A week and a half earlier there was a Global Day of Action against the Shwe gas project in western Burma - it is feared that severe human rights abuses will attend the development of this project (being undertaken jointly with the South Korean Daewoo corporation). But no fuss anywhere in ASEAN. The notion of solidarity is dead or dying.
injured kid