Surin Pitsuwan, one of the first rational voices to call for a more proactive Asean, now wants the group to intervene to help calm the violence in western Myanmar. It is a mark of the group's lack of confidence that it will, once again, refuse Mr Surin's good advice. The communal and religious riots in Rakhine state have killed dozens if not hundreds of people. But Myanmar is once again invoking the tired, old rule of non-interference to justify terrible violations of human rights and decency.
It is ironic that Mr Surin is the leading voice in the call for help for Myanmar. As foreign minister of Thailand in the 1990s, he was a lone voice of sanity in the region. That was when he broke the non-interference rule to recommend that Asean move to help Myanmar out of its long, vicious military dictatorship. The Myanmar generals opted for another 20 years of brutal, ruinous rule. Asean was forced to pretend for many years that Myanmar was a serious and productive member of the regional group.
Now Mr Surin is the secretary-general of Asean. He told this newspaper last weekend that action is necessary in Myanmar. Violent clashes between Buddhist and Muslim communities have left at least 159 people dead. There are scores of villages torched to the ground, tens of thousands of refugees and shattered lives.
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