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ASEAN’s Approach to Myanmar

By ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus  •  September 21, 2011

In Myanmar, widespread and systemic deprivation of economic, social, political and cultural rights continues apace. The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) thus urges members of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) to address the following fundamental concerns in the realization of human rights, freedom and democracy in Myanmar.

As Myanmar is becoming a full member of AIPA this year and is requesting to chair ASEAN in 2014, AIPMC considers this as a key moment in Myanmar’s history to improve the human rights situation and bring about a genuine transition to democracy. We asks that fellow ASEAN states strongly urge Myanmar government to initiate progressive democratic reforms and to meet with human rights standards outlined in both the ASEAN Charter and international law as well as prior to 2014.

The Charter of ASEAN, of which Myanmar is a signatory, calls upon states to observe “principles of democracy, the rule of law and… respect for the principles and protections of human rights and fundamental freedoms.” We remain seriously concerned that, in contravention of both the Charter and international law, military-led rule prevents democratic reforms from taking place. In 2010, undemocratic constitution and elections laws would serve to prevent the National League of Democracy (NLD) from rightly participating in democratic elections. Thus we ask that AIPA encourage the new government of Myanmar to undertake concrete reforms that ensure that rights to all forms of democratic participation are protected; this includes securing legal recognition of the NLD as the legitimate voice of Burma’s democratic opposition as well as initiating a dialogue with all opposition groups including ethnic leaderships.

The release of Nobel Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi underscores the influence of international actors, namely, ASEAN states, in affecting significant and lasting change in Myanmar. Despite her release, political prisoners, many of whom experience torture and ill-treatment during their incarceration, continues to stand at more than 2,000. The UN Special Rapporteur most recently noted that the “release (of political prisoners) is a central and necessary step towards national reconciliation, and would bring more benefit to Myanmar’s efforts towards democracy.” We ask that AIPA reaffirm this consensus, and act to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of all political detainees, prisoners of conscience and parliamentarians alike.

With view to protect human rights, we ask that AIPA be firm and resolute in calling for the immediate cessation of hostilities in Myanmar. In ethnic areas such as Karen, Kachin and Shan states, there remain grave concerns that war crimes and crimes against humanity continue to be perpetrated. This includes extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, arbitrary arrest and detention and internal displacement. Those most affected include Burma’s most vulnerable persons, such as ethnic minorities, the displaced, women and children. Thus, we call upon AIPA to join with the international community in urging the military regime to protect human rights by ensuring the immediate and unconditional cessation of violent conflict. So too do we ask that AIPA encourage the Myanmar Government to partake in multiparty peace talks with non-state groups, so as to secure a peaceful transition to democracy and freedom.

We remain equally concerned that human rights violations continue to take place in relation to development projects in ethnic areas. Such projects, undertaken by the government of Myanmar and fiscally supported by other states, have led to both a number of serious environmental concerns and a host of human rights violations: land confiscations, displacement, torture, rape and other forms of systematic violence among them. No local laws serve to protect Burmese people or the environment; thus, we strongly urge AIPA states to encourage Myanmar to establish the primacy of human rights protections based on the rule of law, including environmental protections. AIPA states should refrain from investment on development projects in Myanmar until such standards are met.

It is necessary to have some measures for investigations of human rights violations in Myanmar to seek for truth, justice and healing to the victims and their families and to bring about an end to impunity of state officials which stands contrary to the pursuit of justice and peace in Myanmar. Such investigations should be conducted with the support of the international community in an independent, impartial and credible manner. We therefore ask that AIPA states support the UN – led Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in Myanmar.

We finally call upon AIPA states to initiate a concrete step towards freedom, justice and democracy in Myanmar by drafting and passing a series of resolutions, each pertaining to progressive democratic reforms and human rights protections. These include: 1) a resolution to reflect the urgency of national dialogue between the Myanmar government and all opposition groups including ethnic nationalities; 2) a resolution demanding human rights protections for Myanmar people, including cessation of human rights abuses in fighting areas and the release all political prisoners; and 3) a resolution to support the CoI.

The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) is a network formed in an inaugural meeting in Kuala Lumpur, on 26-28 November 2004 by and for Parliamentarians from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries. The aim is advocating for human rights and democratic reform in Myanmar/Burma.  Its members represent both the ruling and non-ruling political parties of countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines and Cambodia.

Eva Sundari , MP (Indonesia) President
Charles Chong, MP (Singapore) Vice-President
Dadoes Soemarwanto, MP (Indonesia) Member
Kraisak Choonhavan (Thailand) Vice President
Lorenzo Tanada, MP (The Philippines) Vice President
Rachada Dhnadirek, MP (Thailand), Member
Son Chhay, MP (Cambodia) Vice-President
Lim Kit Siang,
MP (Malaysia) Vice-President
Teresa Kok,
MP (Malaysia) Member
Yusmadi Yusoff, MP (Malaysia) Member

For more information/ interview with AIPMC MPs, please contact: 

Agung Putri Astrid +62 81514006416 

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This post is in: Press Release

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