Asean seems to be moving with its head in the clouds where Myanmar is concerned. Asean leaders are either naive to an unbelievable degree or they are so blinkered that they cannot see the wood for the trees. Myanmar military junta leader General Than Shwe has shown himself time and again to be an untrustworthy despot whose heinous oppressions of his country's democratic fighters, especially the iconic Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, are world renowned. And yet it defies human sanity for Asean founding members to invite, perhaps in their mind, a benign Myanmar to join their august organisation.
Whilst the whole democratic world was outraged and making vitriolic attacks on the despotic military junta of Myanmar for the trial of Ms Aung San Suu Kyi on a trumped-up charge, we were entertained to an incredible spectacle of a Singapore Senior Minister stating openly to the despotic General Than Shwe that it was Myanmar's domestic affair. The Senior Minister could have been in a state of euphoria when he said it probably because of the overwhelming receptions accorded him on his visit to a so-called utopia state. What signal his impetuous utterance had given to the democratic world is not hard to guess.
The latest antics of the despotic General Than Shwe in rejecting outright the request of the United Nations Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki Moon to interview detained Aung San Suu Kyi should be a wake-up call to Asean. If the Singapore Senior Minister thinks that his ingratiating talk to the despotic General Than Shwe had softened his heinousness, the Singapore Minister had better think again. This is a typical example of a leopard never changing its spots.
So a world personage of no lesser prominence than a UN Secretary-General has now received a first-hand rebuff from what Asean considers to be its most promising star. Does not this egregious act of the Asean darling Than Shwe fly in the face of Asean leaders? Mr. Ban Ki Moon is chief of the United Nations and what kind of world reactions can Asean expect on his outrageous treatment by the leader of its over-cherished member.
Myanmar will be like an albatross round the neck of Asean if the latter is still under the illusion that it can democratise Myanmar with a well-intentioned but unworkable policy of constructive engagement. This can have a deleterious effect on the impeccable reputation of Asean in the long run, a reputation it has painfully built over the years.
Perhaps Asean leaders may take note of this Chinese idiom: Rein in your horse on the brink of the cliff.