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Asean FMs urged to prod Burma to democratize

Originally appeared in Business Mirror

July 20, 2010

A REGIONAL rights group has called on the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) currently meeting in Hanoi to step up moves to democratize Burma/Myanmar as part of concrete measures in establishing a single-market economy by 2015.

The Task Force on Asean and Burma said the regional bloc is pushing greater economic and political integration, but refused to deal seriously with the Asean’s “rogue state” (referring to Burma/Myanmar) which continues to commit rights atrocities against its people.

The 43rd Asean Ministerial Meeting, which concluded in Hanoi this week, adopted the five-year work plan of the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) that aims to tackle rights atrocities committed
against nationals of the 10-member Asean countries, including Burma/Myanmar.

Aung Myo Min, coordinator of the Task Force on Asean and Burma, criticized Asean for being “notoriously lax” in dealing with the severe political, social and economic issues in Burma.

The group’s open letter to the Asean Coordinating Council stated: “Asean is endeavoring to move toward greater regional integration by 2015. However, in order to take the region to a higher plane, Asean must be willing to take stronger measures to deal with the region’s rogue state.”

The Asean Coordinating Council is composed of foreign ministers from member- countries and meets twice a year to prepare the meetings for the Asean Summit, as well as to discuss coordination and implementation of Asean policies.

The rights group also told Asean leaders that their call for the release of all political prisoners in Burma and the conduct of free, fair and credible elections should be pushed along with “concrete actions to address the behavior of its most unruly member.”

“Asean is hoping that the elections can bring enough surface-level change in Burma that they then don’t have to do anything. The reality is that human-rights problems, economic disasters and a complete lack of rule of law will continue after the elections. Asean is going to have to wake up and realize the consequences of inaction. We, as members of Burma’s civil society, see the tragic consequences every day,” said Min, in the letter.

Burma’s military junta had committed to Asean in 2007 to implement the road map to democracy by releasing democracy icon and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, under detention for almost two decades along with more than 2,000 political prisoners.

The military leaders have vowed to conduct a free, fair and all-inclusive democratic elections, but instead disqualified Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League of Democracy, from participating in the elections.

The rights group also reiterated the call of the Asean Interparliamentary Myanmar Caucus, a network of legislators from Asean countries, in their call for the suspension of Burma’s membership in the Asean unless genuine democratic transition happens.

Asean groups the Philippines, Indonesia, Burma/Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia.


In Photo: Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) pose with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, 6th left, at the opening of their 43rd annual meeting in Hanoi on Tuesday. From left: Lao Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, Philippines’ Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Policy Erlinda Basilio, Singaporean Foreign Minister George Yeo, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, Myanmar Foreign Minister U Nyan Win, Brunei Foreign Minister Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan. (AP)

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