11/22/2007, 00.00
MYANMAR – ASEAN – EU
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Myanmar playing “tricks” with the international community

ASEAN and the European Union agree to a joint statement calling on Myanmar to release all political prisoners and expressing appreciation for the work of the United Nations in the country. Local and foreign analysts believe however that in Singapore General Than Shwe’s “war strategies” won the day.

Singapore (AsiaNews) – Despite different approaches to the Myanmar crisis, the European Union and the Association of South-Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed to a joint statement urging the Myanmar government in Naypydaw to free all political prisoners.

The two sides said they “welcome the decision of the government of Myanmar to step up its engagement with the UN and to enter into a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, recalling that such a dialogue should be conducted with all concerned parties and ethnic groups.”

However, their statement is non-binding and sets no deadline for the Myanmar authorities to comply.

The statement itself comes as European Union and ASEAN representatives met to celebrate 30 years of joint relations.

On the Myanmar question the two hold however very different positions. The European Union has imposed soft sanctions, whereas ASEAN believes that they do not help the democratic process but only hurt the population. Still Portuguese Prime Minister José Sócrates explained that despite their differences both sides share the same goal, which is to have a democratic Myanmar that respects human rights.

In the meantime the game of motions, resolutions and “condemnation” against Myanmar’s policies continues. And for some analysts it is Myanmar’s generals who continue to call the shots.

Writing in The Irrawwaddy, Wai Moe said that junta’ strongman General Than Shwe knows “how to play in a sophisticated way with a weak organization like ASEAN.”

According to the editorial writer, the general uses real “war strategies” like leading the enemy believe one thing and pulling a switch at the last moment.

This happened in 2004 when the junta promised to release Aung San Suu Kyi only to go back on its word at the last moment.

This is also how two day ago Than Shwe got ASEAN to cancel the invitation to UN Special Envoy for Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari even though he had initially agreed.

Others suggest that Than Shwe can do so because his back is covered by others, starting with China, India and Russia.

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