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Lawmakers and Civil Society Call on ASEAN to Delay Burma Chairmanship Decision

By Burma Partnership  •  October 26, 2011

Representatives from Burma’s civil society based in the Thai-Burma border areas held a press conference today calling on ASEAN to delay their decision about Burma’s bid for the 2014 chairmanship until the country takes substantial key steps towards genuine democratic transition. Their call comes in response to Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa’s stated interest in hearing the voice of the civil society.

During the press conference Khin Ohmar, Coordinator of Burma Partnership, expressed her concerns that awarding Burma the ASEAN chairmanship will remove the incentive for the regime to improve the political and human rights situation in the country: “We are worried that if they get the chairmanship too soon, before they make concrete changes, then they don’t really need to care anymore. They can go back to the same old pattern of behaviour that we have seen consistently. This is the only opportunity for ASEAN to push the regime to make substantial changes,” she said. “The people inside Burma on the ground cannot suffer again because of another mistake by the international community.”

The Honorable Kraisak Choonhavan, former Thai MP and Vice-President of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus, said that while many ASEAN countries have already expressed support for Burma’s chairmanship in 2014, “we have Indonesia to look up to. It is the second largest democracy in the world.”

The speakers welcomed the Indonesian Foreign Minister’s forthcoming trip to Burma, which has reportedly been postponed a couple of days because of a cabinet reshuffle in Indonesia. “There are many different voices inside Burma, and those working for democracy in the country are eager to meet with Mr. Natalegawa. They will meet him anywhere he wants,” said Khin Ohmar. “We encourage the Foreign Minister and really hope that he will listen to civil society when he travels to the country, as well as representatives from ethnic communities and armed ethnic groups.”

“Burma has multiple problems, but the release of all political prisoners is one of the first steps that is needed before ASEAN gives Burma the Chair, said Ko Bo Kyi, Joint Secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma. He further stated that after the last amnesty only 237 political prisoners were released. “Today 1,701 political prisoners remain in Burma’s prisons as evidence that the regime has not changed their policies. We want them to change their policies so that we know that new political prisoners won’t be arrested and we can work for democracy together,” said Ko Bo Kyi.

For more information, please contact:
Khin Ohmar, Coordinator of Burma Partnership: +66818840772
Ko Bo Kyi, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma: +66819628713

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This post is in: Press Release

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