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RI told to delay ASEAN decision on Myanmar chair bid

Originally appeared in The Jakarta Post

October 19, 2011

The ASEAN Inter-parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) called on current ASEAN chair Indonesia to delay agreeing on Myanmar becoming ASEAN chair in 2014 until the country showed real progress in democratization.

Observers and stakeholders are speculating that during the ASEAN summit in Bali next month, ASEAN leaders will agree to grant Myanmar the grouping’s chair.

The AIPMC said in a press conference in Jakarta on Tuesday that it supported a call from the Burma Partnership, which represents Myanmarese civil society, that Indonesia should play a more active role in encouraging further reform in Myanmar.

“The AIPMC and the Indonesian House of Representatives’ foreign affairs commission will ask Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa to lobby other ASEAN countries to suspend the decision during the upcoming ASEAN meeting to give time to the ruling government in Myanmar to make more progress at home,” AIPMC executive director Agung Putri Astrid said.

During the press conference, Burma Partnership coordinator Khin Ohmar said the pro-democracy movement was still running in place, as Myanmar, under President Thein Sein’s democratically elected government, had yet to achieve significant progress in democracy.

She said civil society had not seen continued progress in Myanmar, and the recent release of 220 political prisoners was perceived as “lipstick” to attract attention from ASEAN and the rest of the world.

“The government has to work hard to promote better democracy at home because the real power is held not by the elected president but is in the hands of the eight-member National Security Council, which is controlled by the former military junta leader, Than Shwe, and several other Army generals.

“The government also has to release more than 18,000 political prisoners and stop the atrocities against minorities such as Kareen and Katchin,” she said.

Eva Kusuma Sundari, a caucus member and legislator of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, said suspending the decision would give Myanmar two years to show its political commitment to developing a true democracy and for ASEAN to assess the country’s progress.

According to her, ASEAN should not abruptly make the decision despite the fact that Myanmar was gradually distancing from its patron country, China.

“Myanmar should be given time to show ASEAN and the international world its sincerity in running a democratic government.”

She added that the foreign minister should meet all the stakeholders in Myanmar, including ethnic leaders, in his next visit to assess the Myanmarese government’s democratic progress.

Lily Chadidjah Wahid, another caucus member, said the AIPMC would bring the Burma Partnership’s report and recommendations to the hearing between House’s Commission I on information, defense and foreign affairs and the foreign minister on Tuesday afternoon.

View the original article here.

This post is in: ASEAN, News Clip