The bombings in Myanmar at the weekend - the worst in more than 20 years - throw the country's many problems into sharp focus. Those responsible for the blasts at Yangon shopping malls and a trade centre, killing 11 and injuring at least 162, have not been identified. The military junta was, predictably, quick to blame its enemies. The terrorist attacks, it said, were the work of various ethnic rebel groups and pro-democracy activists. It accused them of being intent on disrupting 'community peace and stability'. These groups have denied involvement and there is, as yet, no evidence to suggest they are to blame. Relations between the government and the Karen National Union have, however, deteriorated since the ousting of relatively moderate prime minister Khin Nyunt last October. Another theory is that the deadly blasts were the result of struggles within the government - perhaps the work of Khin Nyunt's allies. This has also not been substantiated. Whoever is to blame, the bombings point to instability not stability. The international community has recently stepped up its efforts to pressure or persuade the government to improve its human rights record and introduce democratic reforms. Last week, the European Union held unprecedented ministerial talks with officials from Myanmar at the Asia-Europe Meeting in Kyoto. The EU has extended its sanctions against the country, but is still providing aid in the form of support for health and education services. Myanmar was promised that more help would be forthcoming if it agreed to EU demands. These include the release of political prisoners - notably pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been back in detention for the past two years. The EU approach is sophisticated and the resumption of dialogue welcome. The offering of carrots is generally preferable to the waving of sticks. But engagement does not always produce results - and it has, so far, had little impact on Myanmar's military rulers. Myanmar has made a lot of noise about its democratic reforms but there has been little meaningful progress. Matters will come to a head soon. Myanmar is due to take over the leadership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations next year. The grouping has long favoured constructive engagement. But it will face international isolation if Myanmar is allowed to take the helm without making changes to the way in which it governs. Legislators in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia are already pushing for Myanmar's chairmanship to be withheld - with good reason. Trade with the EU and US could be disrupted if such action is not taken. Myanmar has a choice. There are steps it can take that would allow it to take the coveted chairmanship as planned. It should start by releasing Ms Suu Kyi from her long period of house arrest.