Hindustan Times
'China needs to push Myanmar on reforms'
Agence France-Presse
Singapore, January 11, 2006|15:28 IST

China's involvement is needed to push for political reforms in Myanmar, US billionaire financier George Soros said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a forum organised by the Singapore-based Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Soros said neither the policy of isolation advocated by the West nor "constructive engagement" championed by Myanmar's Southeast Asian neighbours has succeeded.

"Nothing works and yet something needs to be done," he told hundreds of students, academics and some diplomats.

"Clearly if the international community could get its act together -- if China, let's say, felt a strong need that something needs to be done -- as the West (has), then perhaps the international community could be more successful in bringing about a change."

He said that as long as there is dissension then "the result is clear for all of us to see".

Some analysts are of the view that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) does not want to push military-ruled Myanmar too hard on reforms because it might force the country to gravitate towards China, with which it shares a land border.

Soros is founder and chairman of the Open Society Institute, a network of philanthropic organisations active in more than 50 countries.

In 1994, the institute established the so-called "Burma Project" for the purpose of increasing international awareness of conditions in Myanmar and helping it make the transition to democracy. Burma is Myanmar's former name.

The Burma Project first expanded into the rest of Southeast Asia in the late 1990s, according to the institute.

Concerns over the pace of reforms in the country were heightened when former Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail announced Sunday his resignation as the United Nations special envoy to Myanmar after being denied entry there for nearly two years.

On Tuesday, Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar warned that Myanmar was facing severe international pressure over its lack of democratic progress.
Syed Hamid was expected to visit Myanmar on behalf of ASEAN this month to check on democracy reforms, but the military junta put off the visit.