By Alan Morison, http://phuketwan.com/tourism/phuket-asean-showdown-11442/
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
PHUKET in October may be the last time Asean leaders gather as a 10-nation grouping before Burma is expelled . . . or Indonesia leaves.
Indonesia has so far remained quiet about this week's continuation of Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest for 18 more months, as well as the increasing likelihood that Burma is covertly working to become a nuclear power.
Notorious for encouraging the belief the country is preparing for change while secretly strengthening the stranglehold on power and the ill-gotten fortunes of its ruling junta, there seems little hope for human rights reforms in Burma of the kind Asean leaders are now demanding.
At some point soon, possibly as early as on Phuket in October, Indonesia is likely to convey the message: ''Either Burma goes, or we do.''
There are no longer any similarities in the aims and objectives of the two countries.
While Burma remains a repressed nation ruled by self-interested crackpots, Indonesia has risen in stature and prosperity and is now regarded as South East Asia's most progressive nation.
Burma's generals will continue to play for time and pretend reform is on the way, but North Korea is now clearly the role model they have chosen to follow.
The Asean concept of collective development and gradual democratisation has little appeal to rulers who have absolute power, and who know that the gorilla in the room, China, is happy to trade.
The others? Well, just keep them guessing. Once Burma has the bomb, Asean becomes irrelevant.
For opposite reasons, the same viewpoint about Asean no longer having any meaning is being taken up more widely in Jakarta these days.
Why would Indonesia, with its commitment to democracy and human rights, wish to stay a member of a club that considers Burma a bona fide member?
Once it could have been argued that change was more of a possibility with Burma on the inside, rather than the outside. That is not the case any more.
When the foreign ministers from Asean and 17 other nations met on Phuket in July, Indonesia simpered over whether there was genuine support for an Asean human rights charter.
A foot went into the door marked ''Way Out.'' Then the foot was pulled back inside.
Events inside Burma during August are likely to edge the region's most impressive leader, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to tell Asean it's time to make a choice: them or us.
Neutral territory on Phuket in October seems the logical place for that showdown of ideologies.