Burmese pariah

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General Than Shwe is not widely known outside of Burma. Safely ensconced in the new capital city he and his military cronies have built for themselves, he lives a life of luxury while the people of Burma struggle to make ends meet. There are very few of these narcissistic oligarchs left in the world today (Robert Mugabe being one of the more prominent), and in the increasingly globalised world, I find it astonishing that so-called democracies have allowed them to get away with it for as long as they have. There are many guilty parties, but top of the list, in my opinion, is ASEAN. China, India and Japan come in for criticism for their strong business links with the regime, but ASEAN should have done more before now to deal with one of its own. ASEAN foreign ministers met at the UN in New York yesterday, and in uncharacteristically blunt language, they voiced their revulsion at the killings in Rangoon. Singapore’s Foreign Minister George Yeo demanded that the Burmese government “immediately desist from the use of violence against demonstrators”. Even General Surayud, the Thai Prime Minister and fellow ‘military dictator’ (albeit of a bloodless coup), spoke out at the UN in criticism of the Burmese military junta. This is very commendable, but now they have to ‘walk the talk’.