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Civil Society Responds to Indonesia: Burma is Not Ready to Chair ASEAN

By Task Force on ASEAN and Burma  •  October 20, 2011

On 18 October, the Task Force on ASEAN and Burma (TFAB), a network of Burma’s exiled civil society groups, sent an open letter to Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa to call on ASEAN to delay its decision regarding Burma’s bid for the bloc’s chairmanship in 2014. TFAB recommended that ASEAN insist that three key benchmarks must be met before Burma is allowed to take the chairmanship, including the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners; the declaration of a nationwide ceasefire with ethnic armed groups and cessation of attacks on ethnic communities; and inclusive political dialogue with ethnic nationality representatives, including armed groups, and the pro-democracy movement, led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy.

“These are crucial steps that the regime must take to show that they are committed to genuine democratic progress in Burma,” said Aung Myo Min, Coordinator of TFAB. “The steps they have taken so far are nothing more than empty attempts to win the favour of the international community, including ASEAN.”

The open letter was in response to the Foreign Minister’s recent statement that he would “be keen to listen and to hear the voice of civil society.” Mr. Natalegawa will be travelling to Burma from 26 to 28 October to assess the country’s readiness to assume the chairmanship.

“Does ASEAN really want a chair that continues to wage war against ethnic groups, destroying entire villages and committing human rights violations that may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes? How about a chair that detains members of the opposition and civil society? We don’t believe that this is the face that ASEAN wants to put forward to the world,” said Aung Myo Min. “It is in the bloc’s best interest to encourage Burma to fix its problems before awarding it the chairmanship.”

TFAB’s open letter to the Foreign Minister is available here.

The Task Force on ASEAN and Burma is a diverse, continuous, and supportive network of civil society actors from Burma working with regional organizations to promote a people-centered ASEAN that is supportive to the cause of democracy, human rights, and peace in Burma.

For more information, please contact:

Aung Myo Min, Coordinator of the Task Force on ASEAN and Burma: +66 (0)819925293

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This post is in: ASEAN, Press Release

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