EU-commissioned report on Myanmar raises eyebrows

Updated On: Apr 05, 2005

Bangkok- A European Union-commissioned report onMyanmar, which calls for an overhaul of the grouping’s policy towardsYangon, has drawn strong opposition from pro-democracy groups. They fear thatBrusselsmight adopt a more friendly approach towards the military regime just when its pressure seemed to be bearing fruit.

The report was written by long-timeMyanmarresearcher Robert Taylor, currently a fellow at theInstituteofSoutheast Asian StudiesinSingapore, and Mr Morten Pederson, an analyst for the International Crisis Group. It suggested that the EU overhaul its policies onMyanmarin favour of an approach that would boost the economy and improve governance.

The two researchers’ 12 proposals toBrusselsinclude recognisingMyanmar, instead ofBurma, as the official name of the country; resuming regular high-level visits;revising the use of sanctions; and restoring some aid programmes aimed at easing the crushing poverty and improving basic education.

The EU imposed sanctions on theMyanmarmilitary government in 2003 and tightened them last year whenYangonfailed to meet its demands, including the release of pro-democracy leaderAung San Suu Kyi.

Dictator Watch, a democracy advocacy group, said the report was a "total surrender'"."It is clear that the EU is looking for justification for doing business with the regime.Europe, which experienced genocide, should be a leader in confronting the crime perpetrated by the ruling State Peace and Development Council on ethnic cleansing," the group said.

The Bangkok-based Alternative Asean Network onBurmaalso urged the European Commission, which is the EU's administrative arm, to reject the report onMyanmaras being anti-democratic.The network said these suggestions erode the EU's commitment to democracy inMyanmar and was in contradiction to growing support for its democracy inSoutheast Asia.

Asean foreign ministerswill discussMyanmar’s chairmanship at a meeting in thePhilippinesthis month. Thai officials said the EU shift onMyanmar’s stance would be welcomed byThailandas it would be complimentary to the Thaksin government's policy of engagement with itsimmediate neighbour.

* Report on junta irks pro-democracy groups (Bangkok Post, April 3)