by The Irrawaddy
June 21, 2007

The new Asean charter could contribute to the democracy movement in Burma, the incoming general secretary of the 10-country bloc said o­n Wednesday.
Surin Pitsuwan, a former foreign minister and a senior member of the Democrat Party, has been endorsed by the Thai cabinet to succeed the current general secretary of Asean at the end of the year.

“On Burma, the spirit of democracy is reasserting itself in the region,” Surin told the Bangkok Post, o­ne of Thailand's English language newspapers.

“The charter is expected to touch upon the issues of human rights, people participation and good governance, but whenever o­ne or more countries become champions of the issues some others will back away,” he added. "How we can sustain the spirit or regenerate the debate o­n the issue has yet to be seen." The new charter is expected to be approved sometime this summer.

Burma became a member of Asean in 1997. Asean has grown increasingly impatient with Burma’s slow crawl toward political reform, particularly with the junta’s refusal to free Burma's detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. However, Asean was founded o­n the principle of non-interference in a member state’s internal affairs.

Currently the five-year term of the Asean general secretary is held by o­ng Keng Yong of Singapore.