When even dictators see a need for inclusion

The brutality of Myanmar’s military rulers against a national uprising has pushed other Southeast Asian nations to engage with the country’s pro-democracy forces.

Refugees who have fled fighting in Myanmar have settled temporarily near the Moei River in Mae Sot, Thailand.

Half of Southeast Asia’s nations have authoritarian regimes, which made it a welcome surprise last Friday when the region’s grouping of 10 countries decided to open talks with the pro-democracy opposition in war-ravaged Myanmar.

This bold step will not only help drain legitimacy from the country’s ruling but isolated military, but also send a message of the need for political inclusion, as Indonesian President Joko Widodo put it. “We must not allow the situation in Myanmar to define [the Association of Southeast Asian Nations],” said the leader of ASEAN’s most populous country.

ASEAN’s decision to engage the pro-democracy National Unity Government – a group run by elected leaders ousted in a 2021 military coup – runs counter to the regional body’s policy of not interfering in each other’s domestic affairs. But many ASEAN leaders have become disgusted with the military’s massacres, executions, and bombings of civilians in Myanmar – actions supported by Russian-provided weapons with tacit support from China.

The civil war in Myanmar, in other words, has become a threat to ASEAN’s tradition of creating a region of stability that provides low-key – and inclusive – diplomacy in coping with Asia’s dangerous fault lines.

After the coup against the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February last year, ASEAN did set a five-point plan for the military to end its scorched-earth tactics against a national uprising and restore democracy. But the regime under coup leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing has only increased its attacks even as the National Unity Government’s forces have set up an alternative “shadow” government and worked closely with Myanmar’s suppressed ethnic minorities.

Myanmar’s economy is near collapse and, with the military now only in control of an estimated 20% of the country, ASEAN has seen how much the people of Myanmar want their democracy back – much like the world has seen Ukrainians fight for their freedom.

Despite the bloc’s authoritarian members, its neighborly move to reach out to Myanmar’s democratic forces sets a model of inclusion for both the country and the region.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to When even dictators see a need for inclusion
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today