Monday, May 25, 2009

Asia has abdicated responsibility over Burma, says Anwar Ibrahim

Earlier today, I watched Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the Malaysian opposition, give a very smooth and spirited performance at a lunch organised by Singapore's Foreign Correspondents Association.

While he answered a series of tough questions about Malaysian politics with wit and guile, he seemed particularly exorcised about Burma and the junta's treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The normally supine Association of Southeast Asian Nations has spoken out for once against the latest sham trial of Burma's leading democracy campaigner. But Anwar was extremely critical about the failure of Asian nations to do more.

There has been an "utter abdication of responsibility in the region," he said, adding that the policy of constructive engagement in Asia (as compared to the sanctions imposed by the US, Europe and Australia) has "become a mockery".

"There's more construction than constructive engagement," he joked, referring to the eagerness with which Asian companies have rushed to help the Burmese generals build their new capital at Naypyidaw and other projects designed to cement their grip on power and augment their luxuriant lifestyles.

Anwar fits the classic mould of the economically liberal, pro-Western and media-friendly developing world opposition leader, which makes it very easy to get carried away by his rhetoric.

However, as Thailand's Abhisit Vejjajiva and Georgia's Mikheil Saakashvili have found, being embraced in the think-tanks and editorial columns of the West does not necessarily mean you have what it takes to resolve deep-seated domestic issues.

Let's just hope that the FT doesn't invite Anwar for lunch.

1 comment:

  1. Amnesty International agrees with you.