Myanmar tightens screws ahead of constitutional talks
YANGON: Three weeks after Myanmar agreed to forgo the chairmanship of ASEAN, the country’s military rulers have tightened the screws at home ahead of a new round of constitutional talks, analysts and government sources said.
The junta agreed on July 26 to skip its turn in the rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, bypassing a showdown with the United States and the European Union, which had threatened to boycott the group’s meetings under Yangon’s leadership.
Analysts here said that decision had caused Myanmar to lose some face but had staved off many other headaches – not least of which was the mounting pressure to free Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest before taking the chair.
It also spared the junta from trying to control the inevitable invasion of foreign journalists who would have flocked to ASEAN meetings. “We were let off the hook, thanks to the Americans,” a high-level foreign ministry source told AFP.
US pressure to forgo the chairmanship had “played right into our hands,” the source said on condition of anonymity. With the spotlight now shifted away, the junta has turned to shoring up its authority.
“The military government is now showing increasing signs of further centralising its power and tightening up its control in every respect,” said one local analyst.
Diplomats have noted that Myanmar is making life more difficult for United Nations agencies in Yangon, as well as for non-governmental organisations, which find it harder to work in the field as their travel becomes more restricted. afp