As senior ministers in Southeast Asia met for a high-level summit in Cambodia in July, some observers were looking ahead to 2014. That’s when Burma, known as Myanmar, will be taking its place as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
It will be an important year for Burma itself--but also for ASEAN, which has its credibility at stake should Burma's unprecedented reforms stumble. ASEAN is eager for the international community to completely remove sanctions on Burma. But some nations' reluctance to axe sanctions altogether is a point of frustration for the regional bloc.
“ASEAN wants the sanctions against Burma removed, because it discriminates against one of its members," one observer says.
But economic sanctions may be harder to remove than they were to impose in the first place.
Cambodian authorities assured the United States’ ambassador to the country that it would abide by international refugee protocols, just two days before it broke its obligations and deported a group of Uighur asylum-seekers to an uncertain future in China, according to documents leaked by the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks.
Details of Cambodia’s sudden U-turn, and the worried backroom consultations among the US Embassy, United Nations and Cambodian officials that preceded it, are contained in a series of diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks this month.
The classified documents highlight how the US and the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, were caught flat-footed in countering China’s influence in the lead-up to the controversial December 2009 deportation. And, say human rights observers, the cables cast a troubling spotlight on China’s ability to export its human rights agenda to developing countries like Cambodia.
Rights groups urge pushback to a law many fear will restrict NGOs in Cambodia. But will linking aid money to human rights persuade Cambodia to rethink?