The authoritarian country of Burma (also known as Myanmar) has recently become a step closer to chair the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) after receiving positive comments from Indonesian Foreign Minister, Marty Natalegawa. Burma has been showing sign of political liberalization, but Asean countries still need to carefully consider if Burma chairing Asean is a good decision. There is still much talk of increasing human rights abuses, especially concerning ethnic minority areas. Widespread rape and murder are still prominent issues, and the question is if Burma deserves such a rewarding position as Asean chair.
A year ago Burma held its first elections in decades, and under President Thein Sein's government, some progress has been made. This progress, however, has been limited to lowland Burma. In the highland ethnic areas, civilians face a brutal civil war against the Burmese army. The highlands is where most of the atrocities mentioned earlier take place.
The meaningful political and legal reforms obviously deserve international support. However, Asean countries need to consider the abuses taking place in the ethnic areas before rewarding Burma with Asean chair.