Thursday, June 19, 2003

A common perception and stereotype of Asians(unfortunately true) is that we value, no, crave stability and wealth above all else. How else would anyone explain the reluctance of ASEAN nations to impress on the military junta of Myanmar to release Aung San Suu Kyi?

Nobody wants to rock the boat. Even more pertinently, nobody wants to be seen rocking the boat. There's a very strong tendency in Asian societies to just shut up and get on with business. It's reflected in our homes, our schools, and the workplace.

It'll take a coordinated effort by the international community to achieve anything. If anything else, it should be a damn lot easier than the US trying to get the UN's support for attacking Iraq. But somehow, I'm not optimistic.

Oh, to be sure, regional leaders believe that constructive engagement is the way to go. By opening up Myanmar's economy, they'll also be able to achieve democracy after a while. But as we've seen in China, liberalization of the economy does not imply liberalisation of politics. There's a certain bleed over effect, but it's often overrated.

But then again, most Asians don't really care who's in power, as long as there is food on the table, and money to be made. What is freedom if it only means the freedom to starve?


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