[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Friday, November 23, 2007

[ASEAN Into The Next Lap]
1. It was a hectic eventful week. Leaders and ministers have come and gone. Next week, MFA will organise a thank-you function for the hundreds of people working on stage and behind the scenes to make the meetings a success.

2. The high point was the signing of the ASEAN Charter. The implications of this will not be felt immediately but in 5, 10, 15 years' time, the effects will be profound. When we embarked on this exercise over two years ago, I was not sure that we could reach this point. But, along the way, it was clear that the collective political will was there. Although there were difficult issues like what to do with serious breaches and the establishment of a human rights body, we were able to overcome them, sometimes quite creatively, and always in a spirit of goodwill and compromise. Not bad at all. The Charter is the best 40th birthday present we could give to ourselves.

3. On Myanmar, we have achieved clarity. As Chair, we tried very hard to achieve consensus, first within ASEAN, then with our neighbours, principally China, Japan and India. On my visits to Beijing, Tokyo and Delhi, and in my conversations with all the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN, I thought it was doable. Unfortunately, a few days before the meeting, the Myanmar leadership took a hard position that the country's problems were its own domestic affair. At the 'family dinner' hosted by PM for the leaders of ASEAN on Monday night, many ASEAN leaders pleaded with the Myanmar PM but to no avail. Myanmar did not want ASEAN to play any role. It was disappointing and sad. Late that night, PM read out a statement flanked by all the leaders of ASEAN, except the Myanmar PM who preferred not to be in the picture. We will still support the Myanmar people but through the UN and not as an ASEAN family. Change must eventually come to that unhappy country.

4. We will not let the Myanmar issue hold us back in ASEAN. The ratification and operationalisation of the Charter should be done quickly. Beyond the formal aspects, we must get a younger generation in ASEAN to feel a greater sense of ASEAN citizenship than their parents. What the Europeans have achieved is a great inspiration to us even though we are not likely to go as far as they have done in creating a union.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG


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