Thu 29 Sep 2005
Filed under: ASEAN,News
Malaysia’s deputy prime minister acknowledged Thursday that Asean’s chosen path of engaging Burma’s repressive military junta has yet to produce the desired results, but added there would be no change of course.
“The policy of constructive engagement has shown some dividends but not as much as we had hoped,” said Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, adding that the West’s hardline approach had fared even worse.
“I think we have to continue to pursue this and hopefully things get better…We’re still trying,” he said. Najib was speaking to a gathering of around 200 politicians, government officials, academics and businessmen at a forum on Asean’s future in Singapore.
Hundreds of dissidents remain incarcerated in Burma and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is under house arrest.
Earlier, Singapore’s prime minister said the regional trade bloc was “decades” away from becoming fully integrated like the European Union.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said late Wednesday that the trade bloc “must make greater efforts at integration” or risk falling behind, especially with booming growth in India and China.
“If we delay or do nothing, we will fall off the radar screen of
international companies and investors,” said Lee while opening the three-day conference. “Should Asean fail to rise to the challenge, we would become marginalized and irrelevant. This would be a grave injustice to our people.”
Asean is aiming for a free trade pact by 2010, and a unified economic community 10 years later. Critics have said self-interest and protective barriers could derail such goals.