1 Aug. 2007

Australian Hypocrisy On Display At ASEAN

Alexander Downer is complaining about that damned "insensitive" Burmese junta:
"It seems to me that nothing has worked... nothing moves the leadership of Burma...

"What amazes me about Burma is that... the leadership seems completely insensitive to and impervious to the views of outside world. And I don't mean Western countries, I mean ASEAN countries,'' Mr Downer said.

"I think that's a shame. I think they should listen to what the broader community of countries in South-East Asia has to say.''
That's pretty rich, coming from any member of Howard's government, which has consistently thumbed its nose at International Law, the UN, human rights groups and global (not to mention domestic) public opinion.

The focus on ASEAN community pressure is even more galling, given that ASEAN nations just this week called on the United States, Australia and other nations to pull their forces out of Iraq!

As Juan Cole noted yesterday, many ASEAN leaders have serious concerns about the Iraq War's effect on their own countries' internal stability:
Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, etc., as Asian nations with a history of resisting Western dominance, are sure that the US occupation of the country is a big part of the problem. US Secretary of State Condi Rice skipped the ASEAN security conference for the second year in a row, since she is heavily preoccupied with the Iraq crisis. Meanwhile, China is moving into the ASEAN economies.
The one good thing to come out of this year's ASEAN meeting was a decision to establish a Human Rights Commision, but even that is nothing to get excited about:
Trevor Wilson, who was Australia's ambassador to Burma between 2000 to 2003, says the new body will struggle to make much progress under the weight of ASEAN's existing structure and philosophy.

"They will probably stick to their long-held principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other member countries. They will probably stick to their insistence on decision-making by consensus," Mr Wilson said.

"Both of those principles, or mechanisms, will mean that if one member country objects to an issue or wording or a certain action, that will be enough to stymie any decisive action.

"So my guess would be that inevitably, it's going to be a body that tends to adopt lowest-common-denominator approaches."
Ah, yes - the lowest common denominator. We know all about that, don't we, Alex?