ASEAN Should Suspend Burma’s Membership Until It Holds Free Elections
We propose this motion that ASEAN should suspend Burma's membership until it holds a free demorcratic election which can be independently reviewed and approved by the United Nations.
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Burma Violates the ASEAN Principles of Democracy
In the ASEAN Charter, signed by all member nations in 2008, one of the fundamental principles is “adherence to the rule of law, good governance, the principles of democracy and constitutional Government” [[http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gT16o2eXYrGL-35uoUD0fKcRPlDw]]. A nation that consistently and directly violates this principle should not be allowed to be a member of ASEAN.
Burma’s Government not only has no mandate to govern; it has an explicit mandate not to govern. In 1990, the last time fair elections were held in Burma, the military junta lost in a landslide to the National League for Democracy (winning 2% of the vote compared to over 60%) [[Houtman, Daigaku & Kenkyūjo, 1999, p. 1]], but seized power and have held on to it since then. In 2007 there was a series of anti-government protests led by thousands of Buddhist monks. These protests were not restricted to a particular group or part of Burma: They included the monks, tens of thousands of regular people in Cities, and farmers in the countryside. The junta’s response was a violent crackdown on the people and protestors and continued military control, actions that would have been unnecessary if the Government had a mandate to rule, as it could confidently hold elections. This is contrast with the protests in Thailand this year, as the Government has agreed to hold an election. Other nations in ASEAN may not have totally free elections, but none of them have this clear opposition from their people.
Furthermore, this lack of mandate in the Burmese Government means that any actions conducted by the Government with regards to ASEAN are not representative of the people of Burma. This undermines ASEAN as an organisation ultimately in existence to promote the interests of the people within the member nations.
The prop wishes to suspend burma because they doubt Burma is worthy of a membership in ASEAN
due to a violation of democratic values that forms one of ASEAN's goals.
We think this is false notion and step to take as
1) there were no prerequisites in regards to Democracy
The agreement within ASEAN for Burma to be included in the regional body never include any prerequisites in regards to
democracy. It is inconsistent and unfair to suddenly suspend them because they do not meet the idealism of democracy.
Moreover, under the ASEAN rules and agreement, ASEAN has no power to impose sanctions on its member countries
2) Suspension violates ASEAN fundamental ideology
ASEAN was built and accepted with an agreed vow on the Principle of Non-Interference. By this, the governance of member countries are not subject to ASEAN's interference. ASEAN is permitted to advice and create talks in regards to governance issue but is prohibited, under its own rules and the agreement made between ASEAN and all its members, to enforce its ideology/opinion towards the member countries.
Moreover, there are no rules within ASEAN that permits the body to suspend its members.
3) In regards to Burma's right to govern, the matter is debatable and subject to assumptions of the issue incl. the past election.
Assuming without conceding that Burma has no right to govern under the terms of democracy, ASEAN still has no right, power nor justification, to remove of suspend them on the basis of forcing Burma to turn democratic or adopt democratic actions.
Burma Violates the ASEAN Principles with regards to Human Rights
ASEAN is clearly committed to human rights in its Charter and has formed an Intergovernmental panel on Human Rights.
Burma oppresses rights in a number of ways. There is no free press (After the protests in 2007 the Government cracked down on internet use so that similar images could not be shown to the world again), no right to protest, and no right to fair trial as the judiciary is controlled by the ruling junta [[http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2004/09/01/burma9290.htm]].
But not only does Burma deny rights, it directly violates them. The military has a reputation for committing gang rapes, murder and torture of women [["State of Terror report" (PDF). Women's League of Burma. 1 February 2007. http://www.womenofburma.org/Statement&Release/state_of_terror_report.pdf. Retrieved 21 May 2007]]. Around 800,000 people are kept in forced labour in Burma [[http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/GC29Ae02.html]].
Not only are these violations of human rights against the purpose of ASEAN, they also result in detriment to other ASEAN members, such as the hundreds of thousands of minority refugees on the Thai border [[http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA16/020/1998]]. This is a strain upon the other nations caused by Government oppression, and therefore Burma shouldn’t be recognised as a friend or given any benefit in response. Allowing Burma to remain a part of ASEAN legitimizes the regime, allowing it to continue the abuses, which will continue to cause massive harms.
A free election would allow the people who are oppressed to have a say in how the Government is run, allowing them (and the majority of people against the current regime) to vote against the human rights abuses. Any Government would be accountable to the people, meaning they would have to treat the people how they wanted to be treated. Currently there is no accountability, and effectively support for the current regime by giving them membership of ASEAN, so the junta's treatment will continue.
In terms of catering to the Burmese people, suspending is a false move to take. Assuming without conceding that the Burmese government is as awful as the prop implies, we think that suspending Burma is not the right solution. In fact, under the prop's paradigm, suspending i.e. isolating them from the ASEAN community will only worsen the situation. This is because isolation further helps the Burmese government to do as it pleases, without a regional body involved with them.
Lastly, if Burma government is as problematic as the proposition implies, then ASEAN with its regional goals, should actively help Burma
instead of dismissing it
Why this will work
The benefits ASEAN is giving to Burma only further the control the military dictatorship.
Moreover, we believe that if ASEAN were to stop trading with Burma, it would be beneficial to the majority of the Burmese population. Currently, two thirds of households in Burma have no electricity, even though the nation in fact produces surplus power, allowing Burma to sell the excess to their ASEAN neighbours. One third of the country live below the poverty line, and according to the UN, it has one of the worst health-care systems in the world, second only to Sierra Leone. However, in 2009, 100% of Foreign Direct Investment came from the resource extraction business, which includes natural gas, oil, and gems [[http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2003999,00.html]]. So in fact, Burma is a nation rich in resources, but the money they gain from such resources, go directly to the Junta.
Burma is one of the most corrupt nations in the world. 21% of the government expenditure goes to the military in a country with few wars and rebel insurgencies. The extent of the corruption means that any free trade benefit from ASEAN will go to the oppressive Junta, and into the military. So if ASEAN were to stop allowing the economic benefits of free trade for Burma, the nation would have to reassess the governmental situation. If ASEAN put forward the condition that trade will only be recommenced when Burma holds democratic elections, and a democratically elected president takes seat, the elite will have to accept said election results. These elite need the benefits of free trade, because this increases their profit. The leaders will still be in a situation which is beneficial to them, only now it would be more just for the majority of the population.
Besides the fact that there is no suspension mechanism in asean
Incase there is suspension
firstly there wont be assurance that the members of the Asean countries would stop trading with just due to the fact that they are no more facilitated with free trade. China one of Burma’s biggest trading partners has their own self-interest due to the strategic location which helps in the movement of goods, while Thailand is highly dependent on the energy resources thus stop of trading is unlikely to happen.
Secondly, even if they would stop trading Burma has other trade allies such as India which has increased by 26% in the past year , Russia, and also apparently one of US big petroleum company chevron works on the Yadana oil fields, thus the Junta would still gain money even though Asean suspend and even if they would go to the extreme of trade ban which would not boost elections supervised by the UN.
Thirdly by suspending or applying trade ban would not guarantee that the resources would be allocated to the Burmese citizens where it is more likely to be sold to other countries or used by the junta itself and even if sold would be at a probably high price. Thus there is so benefit gained by the people infect incase of trade barriers the citizens of burma would not gain access to goods and even there is tendency that the human right violation which has calmed would increase and thus the condition in burma would go worst.
How this will help ASEAN as an International Institution
Every international institution binds itself in some way or another to a set of goals or constitution like set of rules. This is no different in ASEAN, they have a charter of rules and goals, and we have already talked about how Burma has breached and actively continues to breach the charter which it has pledged to uphold. For example the United Nations uses its Declaration of Human Rights, the world sees how the UN follows its own rules the United Nations binds itself to these rules; nations which break these rules are condemned by the United Nations and are often punished (whether by way of sanctions or other means), by sticking to the rules it imposes the UN establishes itself as a respected organization [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:United_Nations_Security_Council_mandates]]. It should be no different in ASEAN. If someone breaches the rules, ASEAN should respond in turn; this will lead to world viewing the organization as a legitimized, responsible international body. If ASEAN can show that it can not only stick to its own rules, but can also stand up and tell one of its members that what it’s doing is ethically wrong, this will show the world that the organization is not only out for economic gain but also puts a price on the livelihood of the people within its member nations. By standing up to a corrupt government and applying a deterrent to them, ASEAN will be seen to have a moral compass and maybe more importantly a backbone, which will attract the world's attention. The world media will report on this issue. All we need to do is look at the stories about America in the past nine years to see how interested the media and therefore public are in international tension [[http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0304/S00223.htm]]. If the world media can report on ASEAN as being an organization with the strength to stand up to the state abusing its people the world will see it as a responsible international organization, which will benefit everyone in it.
Asean should maintain its image as an international institution and should therefore abide to its rules, even if we go by the assumption that asean should take action since burma has gone against the charter in order to gain media attention, there is no significant benefit from the media attention instead the loss is burma would get internationally isolated, and for ASEAN to suspend burma which are not stable yet aiming that it would gain democracy from authoritarian where the suspension does not significantly effect the junta armies would instead cause ASEAN a bad reputation and would not have a positive media attention.
Moreover it goes against the charter, since as according to the charter in article 22 that all disputes shall be resolved peacefully in a timely manner through dialogue, consultation and negotiation. Moreover in the charter article 2.2 discussed regarding the non-interfernce policy, thus by suspending Burma besides nobody can talk when you are threatening with all sorts of things. Asean would go against its charter itself which would ruin the image of Asean and keep its member countries as threat since it means that the contract singned are inter-changeable and inconsistent.
In order for Asean to gain a trustworthy image as UN what is required is for it to abide to its rules and remain consistent, thus by encouraging dialogue in burma would thus gain Asean’s image internationally instead of isolating burma until it attains democracy, it would seem as though Asean is washing their hands away rather than giving their hand to burma.
This will Improve the Relationship Between ASEAN and the EU
The reason ASEAN exists is to bring greater international clout and trade relations for its members, so that the people within them will benefit economically and have a greater voice in the world. A key part of this increase in clout is improved relations between ASEAN and the EU, as the EU is a very significant trading partner [[http://www.atimes.com/se-asia/DC13Ae03.html]], and also has been closely associated with ASEAN in trying to improve human development [[http://www.aseansec.org/9395.htm]].
However, the European Union has been pushing for sanctions against Burma and wants to see their democratic record improve [[http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4715283.stm]]. By taking a similar stance, ASEAN will show solidarity with Europe and improve its standing on that front. This will also make the EU more conducive to a free trade agreement, as they do not want to contradict their sanctions against Burma by having free trade with a group that includes it. For this reason, Burma's presence in ASEAN is already the chief hindrance to free trade talks [[http://euobserver.com/9/28223]]. Most of the reasons why free trade between the regions is not going ahead is because if human development issues, and this is the major one, one that ASEAN can take a stand on by implementing this policy.
If ASEAN excludes Burma, this hindrance will go away opening up the possibility for much greater free trade between the regions. This will improve the economic situations for all the countries involved, and give further incentive to the upper ranks in Burma to change, as they see these benefits occurring in other nations.
The existence of Asean is to accelerate the economic growth, social progress, cultural development among its members, the protection of the peace and stability of the region, and to provide opportunities for member countries to discuss differences peacefully. Thus suspending Burma is not a peaceful manner to solve the violations happening inside it, nor in pursuing the political development in Burma, which goes against the purpose of existence of Asean itself.
The prop doesn’t provide a link as to how not suspending Burma would hamper the relationship between EU. Even if it hampers, we do not see how it would be to an extent which justifies ASEAN to abandon its own member country in order to please the commands of EU.
This will encourage other ASEAN members states to improve their own human rights and democratic freedoms
By allowing Burma to remain a participating member in ASEAN, it sends a message to other ASEAN member states that you can abuse human rights and democracy while suffering no consequences to your ASEAN membership. This legitimises Burma's abuses and harms the deterrence on other governments doing so themselves. If Burma's membership was suspended, it sends a clear message to other ASEAN member states that ASEAN is serious about human rights, serious about democracy, and serious about its expectations of its member states.
Currently, governments have an enormous incentive to keep ASEAN membership. The economic benefits they reap from ASEAN are huge, a market of free trade that encompasses over 500 million people. This is not a source of economic growth that governments take lightly, as it helps fund the tax revenue that they rely on. These governments are going to ensure that the human rights and democracy in their nations are strong.
ASEAN member states such as Laos and Vietnam do not have good human rights themselves. Laos frequently abuses freedoms of expression and association and conducts unfair legal trials. The Vietnamese government still holds political prisoners that have shown peaceful opposition to the government's rule. With the suspension of Burma, these countries will naturally have the incentive to improve their own human rights in their own countries, so they do not get into bad relations with the rest of ASEAN.
For Asean to show an image that it is serious regarding its development and expectations is definitely by doing an effort to develop the member country since its objective is to obtain stability in the Asean region, but besides even showing their seriousness in their objectives, if they would suspend Burma other than exposing their inconsistence, they would violate their own policies. And an organization that violates it own policies for an action that would not bring betterment since it would further hinder Burma from development and has high tendencies of leading to more violations thus would not be a good sample to other countries.
When Burma entered Asean despite of the conflicts within it, the problem Burma is facing due to the fact it is under developed if it would have been a well developed nation this would not have happened thus Asean is obliged to help and as previously mentioned that threatening or abandoning is not the right way to solve a problem since a permanent development could only be obtained internally and therefore negotiation would serve as a better mean.
Understanding that many members states of Asean especially the annex 2 countries have human right violation issues but this is where Asean should play its role to be an organization that fulfills its purposes to develop and solve disputes peacefully incase Burma is suspended then the suspension should also be applied to the other countries as well to be fair, and this would give that apart from Asean going against their own policy which has made these countries agree to be a part of they would suspend those which do not come to their terms. Thus it ruins the Asean itself and the members in it.
And moreover even if this would benefit other countries to improve there is no sign it would improve Burma from human right violations and to obtain a stable development.
This debate has come down to three issues: What is best for ASEAN's legitimacy, what is best for Burma, and whether this will have good or bad flow-on effects in the region.
What is best for ASEAN's legitimacy:
We have maintained that ASEAN needs to enforce its own charter of rules. Because of this ASEAN will gain legitimacy as an international institution and build better links with the EU. The Burmese Government has ignored the ASEAN charter through its constant human rights and institutional abuses, leaving ASEAN with what can only be seen as a rebellious child, who needs to spend some time in the naughty corner.
The Opp have responded by saying that this invades Burma’s sovereignty and insisting that ASEAN needs consensus. We have shown that this is not impeding sovereignty, it is simply sending the message that ASEAN will not tolerate human rights violations. Furthermore, we have shown how Burma's action affect the sovereignty of all the other nations in ASEAN. We have also shown how ludicrous ASEAN would be if it needed consensus on every issue, and shown that it does not need consensus as it stands.
What is best for Burma:
We showed that the majority of people in Burma are mistreated by the state. Having Burma in the ASEAN legitimizes this oppression and recognises a state that should not be recognised because it has no mandate to govern. Suspension from trade could not harm these people and can only harm the purses of the Junta. It may cause them to reassess the situation. The Opp has responded by saying the Burmese people will be disadvantaged, however we have shown that they already are. They told us how useless this will be because China still trades with Burma, however have not addressed the fact that while China does trade with them, so does ASEAN, and if ASEAN stops this will still have a negative effect on the income into the country, they have not show how or why China would invest more into this failing state.
The boost to ASEAN legitimacy and respect throughout the world can only have benefits in terms of trade and power to all of the nations involved in the association. ASEAN has been trying to forge a free trade deal with the EU for some time, and the main obstruction has been problems in Burma. This will show to the EU that ASEAN is acting upon this issue, so it will improve relations. Additionally, having human rights requirements will stop other states from having an incentive to slip into oppressing their people as well.
This is a non violent, diplomatic response. No matter how the opposition attempts to frame this as an invasion of sovereignty, they have not shown how sovereignty will be impeached. In fact, the opposition have not shown any clear harms to any of the parties concerned whatsoever. We maintained that this diplomatic solution is the best for ASEAN and the people in Burma for the reasons shown above. The proposition win.
The most appropriate means
The situation in Burma is improving, albeit still imperfect. 1 However, the “Roadmap to Discipline Flourishing Democracy” in 2003 shows progress towards a better democratic country. In May 2008 a constitution was approved which states elections which should result in the civilian government emerging from the elections. This shows that there is a positive trend towards betterment for the country. Justice and democracy should be upheld, but through the right means. The end does not justify the means. Unless the means and ends are congruent, a policy which does not benefit the stakeholders should not be done. Maybe the motion wishes to solve the internal matters of a country bringing supposedly justice, but in the same time an important issue is being neglected-non-interference. We believe that the situation in Burma is not so severe to the extent that interference in the form of suspension of ASEAN membership is necessary. The right means should (1) respect sovereignty of Burma (2) minimize backlash (3) best in maintaining stability. Sovereignty is vital as ASEAN has the responsibility to promote respecting sovereignty, which includes how a country deals with internal matters and how a country is governed. This is the ASEAN way, in which tension between states or within the states are solved through diplomacy, a value which should be upheld 2 It is important to select a means that can minimize backlash. A country that aims to stabilize itself even further would need to create an environment with the most conducive environment to allow for this, backlash should be minimized.
To claim that the situation in Burma is improving and an election is on the way seems like a superfluous claim, if Burma is on the way to having a free election, that’s great, they won’t be suspended from ASEAN for very long. We however dispute whether current good is actually occurring.
Burma may have implemented a constitution and be heading towards an election but this doesn’t mean much when already it is clear that everybody running in this election will be members of the military or Junta and opposition parties will not be allowed to run. No respected Burmese scholar in the world expects the elections later this year to be credible by U.S. or Western standards[[http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2010/0312_burma_elections_rieffel.aspx]]. This is our point, Burma needs quite a large change now, we want to show the regime that they have to have these standards if they want to have the benefits of being part of the international community. We believe suspension from ASEAN is the correct response.
It does not infringe on Burmese sovereignty, it is not stopping the Junta running their country, and it is sending a message but not forcing change. The Negative team has talked of backlash and stability but has shown in no way how there would be backlash and instability. We propose that Burma has no capacity to form any backlash against ASEAN, and that suspension will not harm the stability of the military dictatorship.
Furthermore they have talked of diplomacy, this is diplomacy. There is no force or invasion of Burmese autonomy simply a statement showing how Burma does not fit in with what ASEAN is, if they want to be part there is an easy way to be part, this is diplomacy, this is the best option and this is why this point should stand.
Furthermore it does benefit the stakeholders, namely the rest of ASEAN, by improving their relations with the rest of the world.
Sovereignty refers to the right of governments to make decisions without interference of external parties. It is vital for governments to respect the decisions and rights of other countries governments as it plays a role in the maintenance of regional as well as international stability. A parallel example would be assisted suicide that is allowed in Switzerland, where some Eastern countries might not agree on the idea, they cannot interfere and meddle with the decision of the Swiss government of allowing assisted suicide in the country. Principle of non-interference refers to ASEAN’s respect over its member countries’ sovereignty and how their internal matters are resolved. This principle is fundamental as the formation of ASEAN was built under the agreement that ASEAN will not interfere into internal matters of its member countries. A violation of the principle promotes inconsistency within the ASEAN body. Furthermore, it clashes with the ideology which is harmful since it tarnishes what ASEAN stands for, the identity of the body. A parallel example would be a European countries who claim they support the freedom of religion of its citizens but in the same time prohibit religious symbols in schools or in public areas. Inconsistency harms the image of ASEAN in front of its member countries, citizens of the countries and the international community.
Firstly, this is not interfering with Burma. There is no force involved. It is simply sending the message that if Burma wants to be a part of the international community, it must respect the human rights of its citizens.
Secondly, respect for state sovereignty rests on the idea that a state is the best at deciding what is best for its own people. The Government in Burma actively oppresses its own people and has no mandate for them to rule. Therefore we do not have to respect its sovereignty, as the Burmese Government is violating the concept of sovereignty itself. The Swiss example is ridiculous - Switzerland passed the law on Euthanasia because its people supported it. It is a contradiction to suggest that the people of Burma support not being able to have a say in anything. Additionally, if Eastern European countries want to sanction Switzerland by refusing to trade or enter into agreements with it, they can, and this would be exactly the same thing.
Additionally, Burma's current regime infringes on the sovereignty of other states. As previously mentioned,Thailand is forced to harbour refugees who cross the border, and the association with Burma affects the ability of ASEAN to organise free trade agreements. These violations are much greater than any violation of Burma's sovereignty cause by kicking them out.
The negative has claimed inconsistency is harmful to ASEAN. ASEAN claims to care about democracy and human rights, so surely to not do this would be inconsistent, especially as it is not an active interference with Burma. Indeed, to force ASEAN to keep Burma would be an interference with the state sovereignty of all the other nations, as they would have to pull out of ASEAN if they wanted to refuse to be involved with an oppressive regime.
Consensus is a fundamental principle within the ASEAN and one which greatly contributes to the acceptance of ASEAN as a regional body by its member countries. In order for an action to be done, there should be a consensus between all ASEAN countries. In times where the action involves ASEAN and a member country, there must be a consensus between ASEAN and that particular member country which will be affected by the action/policy.
Consensus is reached by the status quo of negotiation while suspension completely ignores the thoughts of Burma, the country that will be affected by the act.
Non-interference and consensus are values that are fundamental to the ASEAN member countries as indicated by the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in South East Asian1. In addition to that, there is no mechanism over suspension in the ASEAN government, which means until today, there are not clear guidelines on how suspension of membership should be done. Moreover, when this motion is passed, what it does is only alienate a member of the ASEAN community who should become integrated as a member of the group.
The argument from the Negative team seems to be that we should not suspend Burma because Burma will object. Well of course Burma will object, they are the party at fault. If every nation is ASEAN have rational, ethical and economic reasons to suspend Burma's membership until they hold a free election, why should have to ask Burma's permission to do so? This is ludicrous. In fact, ASEAN has already disagreed over Burma, and this resulted in Burma not being able to take the role of chairman in ASEAN, despite division between the ASEAN members[[http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4715283.stm]].
If there needs to be a consensus on every matter there is no way ASEAN can make an impact on its own members, it essentially kneecaps the organization and makes the point of ASEAN to strengthen the region, pointless because the member sates could just do what ever consensus ASEAN came to by themselves through normal diplomatic and trading paths anyway.
By ignoring the opinion of Burma, we aren't ignoring the opinion of the country itself, but the military junta with no mandate to govern. That isn't just a reason to be indifferent to their views: it means that in principle, ignoring them may be a good thing, especially if their objection is to having democratic elections.
The fact that there is no mechanism to suspend a country is irrelevant. A mechanism can be created, and it's not as if the idea is complicated - Burma can have no involvement in ASEAN until they hold fair elections.
Maintaining the Membership is more effective in reaching democracy
Prop’s paradigm i.e. Burmese government is badly violating the human rights of its citizens, makes it more crucial for ASEAN to keep Burma’s membership intact. First, this cut of ties shows ASEAN does not care about the Burmese people Second, Burma’s membership allows ASEAN to retain a say over the country. This right is lost if ASEAN is to suspend Burma’s membership from ASEAN. With the loss of membership ties, ASEAN has no right to ask Burma to participate in negotiations or any talks in regards to democracy. This is because suspension goes both ways; Burma loses ASEAN membership while ASEAN would lose all say and jurisdiction in regards to Burma.
The Prop never explains why Burma would create a free election to regain ASEAN membership. The Junta will not suffer as a result of ASEAN’s suspension, as its main trade and relations are with non-ASEAN countries i.e. China, India and Russia.
On the other hand, negotiation has been proven successful. Back in 2005, ASEAN had a negotiation with Burma. This negotiation was initiated by the fact that in 2006, it was Burma’s turn to hold the ASEAN Chair, the highest position in ASEAN. Burma has every right to hold the position as leader of ASEAN. Many countries oppose this but nothing can be done. The rules, agreed by all members, allow Burma to take the post. At this point, ASEAN hold discussions with Burma. However, Burma agrees not to accept the rightful position after talks with ASEAN.
The road to democracy is not mutually exclusive to suspension. The status quo of negotiation leads in the same direction, with better results. As a post-conflict state, Burma requires stability in order to ensure sustainable development in its economy, social and political affairs. This is particularly vital to post conflict states. Suspension is a result of one party (ASEAN) forcing its way to Burma. This usually results in backlash. On the other hand, negotiation is an agreement between the two parties involved so is more
Both ASEAN and the opposition's case are premised on the idea that ASEAN cannot have a say or intrude upon the domestic policy or sovereignty of nations within the organisation [[http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7783073.stm]]. This means that currently ASEAN has no power to have any say in whether or not Burma has a democracy. The only power ASEAN can have against its members is to sanction them in ways such as suspension. A toothless ASEAN cannot bring any change.
Additionally, ASEAN and its member nations can still negotiate with Burma. Suspending its membership is not cutting ties completely, it is simply removing the benefits (e.g. free trade etc) that Burma can currently have.
The opposition suggests that negotiation has been successful by pointing to Burma not taking the chair of ASEAN. What we are interested in is whether negotiation has been successful in bringing change to the democratic and human rights situation in Burma. It hasn't - since the 'road map to democracy' in 2003, there have been pro-democracy protests that were violently cracked down on, and human rights abuses continue. The 'success' in having Burma shouldn't be seen as a success at all: that negotiation was only necessary because negotiations to change the way Burma was governed had failed.
The opposition also suggests that Burma needs stability. They haven't shown how removing Burma from ASEAN will affect its stability, and considering the protests in 2007, if Burma really wanted stability, it would be better off introducing democracy. It is also hard to see why 'stability' matters so much when there are extreme human rights abuses occurring. Allowing Burma to be a member of ASEAN simply legitimizes these abuses. It is more important to send the message that they are not legitimate.
We must re-iterate that ASEAN is in no way 'forcing its way into Burma' by suspending it. It is simply refusing to tolerate such an oppressive regime being a part of the organisation.
Keeping to the Status Quo proves ASEAN’s credibility
Kicking a member out when ASEAN has no right to do so, is a unfeasible step to take and promotes the notion that ASEAN does not follow its own rules and agreements. To kick them out because they follow different governance system is improper as ASEAN never place that pre-requisite during the agreement to include Burma in ASEAN. To enforce a sudden pre-requisite to an existing member to be a member, after a unanimous decision to include Burma in ASEAN shows inconsistency in ASEAN. This is harmful, as ASEAN, the regional body, needs to show to its member countries that ASEAN sticks to the rules agreed by all members.
" It will also look ridiculous if ASEAN moves from one extreme – shielding the junta from international sanctions through its "constructive engagement" policy – to another by suspending its membership, especially since ASEAN failed to impose any preconditions of political reform when it allowed Burma to join the association in 1997. "
Moreover, keeping Burma in ASEAN proves ASEAN’s fulfillment of duty. This is since ASEAN was created with the aim of helping one another to develop. This means that in case of problems, ASEAN has the obligation to actively help its member countries instead of dismissing them. The fact that no agreement, rule or mechanism exists in regards to suspension authenticates this vow. The Prop simply addresses ASEAN’s image as the reason to suspend. However, dismissing its member country will only promote the notion that ASEAN’s prefers to hide a problem under a rug.
There may be no prerequisites to joining ASEAN, but nevertheless Burma signed the ASEAN charter, showing its commitment to democracy and human rights. Since then there has been no real change to the situation in Burma, ASEAN is justified in sending the message that this is not acceptable.
It is not a 'rule' of ASEAN that it has no prerequisite of democracy for entry. In fact, if ASEAN does show that it demands standards of human rights for its members, it will gain credibility because it will show that its members meet and care about these standards. Considering that most of the world (and certainly the parts of the world, such as the EU, that ASEAN is looking to associate with more), care far more about the human rights situation in Burma than the whether or not ASEAN turns around on its requirements for membership, they will not only not care if ASEAN makes this change, they will be glad that they do. This can only increase ASEAN's credibility.
ASEAN has no duties in and of itself, it is an agreement of duties between the member nations. Burma is not meeting these duties by violating the human rights of its people, and by preventing the success of ASEAN in the wider world. The opposition continues to insist that ASEAN should 'help' Burma. There is no reason why anyone should help an oppressive regime with no mandate to rule. Any help for the military junta is not helping the vast majority of people in Burma, therefore any 'help' Burma gets from being in ASEAN should not be given.
Furthermore, this is not hiding the problem. Currently ASEAN can do nothing about Burma's problems whatsoever, and suspending Burma sends a real message that these issues are important. In fact, if Burma wants to remain in ASEAN, this will force negotiations between the parties to create change there.
Suspension of Burma is neither feasible nor effective. First, Burma may be in a problematic state, but this is where ASEAN’s main function lies. ASEAN is created to and vows to help its member countries develop in any sector necessary, including human rights. It is built to actively help in a cooperative manner, instead of leaving its member with false hope that it will make the change alone.
The prop’s accusation of Burmese govt violating human rights makes it more important for ASEAN to keep that Burmese membership as to retain a say over Burmese government. Burmese government are willing to negotiate with ASEAN, and no one else even UN or EU, simply because it is a member of ASEAN. The loss of this tie would allow Burma to isolate itself from the rest of the world. Thereby, giving them more leeway to do anything they wish. The fact is international law is stuck with acknowledging Burma’s sovereignty. All countries realize that breaching sovereignty of Burma harms the world, more than it helps; thereby there has never been any military intervention. As a result, the prop’s idea of suspension depends on the assumption that Burmese Junta cannot survive without trade with ASEAN. The opp has explained that Burmese main trade is with allies, China, India and Russia. The junta is rich enough to survive, such economic isolation will only hurt the Burmese society. Moreover, history shows Junta keeps its pride high. It does not allow itself to be enforced into an action, however negotiation has worked such as back in ASEAN chair issues.
2) Whether it is feasible to suspend Burma. ASEAN Charter gives no ability and no right to punish, let alone suspend, member countries. This is based on the fundament of ASEAN i.e. to help, instead of dismissing when its member countries are problematic. Thereby, ASEAN has no right, power nor justification to suspend Burma on the basis of forcing it to adopt democratic actions.
There were no prerequisites in regards to Democracy
What do you think?