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AIPMC Calls on ASEAN Leaders to Place Ethnic Conflict and Human Rights Situation in Myanmar on ASEAN Agenda

By ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus  •  November 14, 2011

The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) today called on leading ASEAN delegates to urgently address concerns regarding democratic reform, ethnic conflict and human rights abuses in Myanmar at the upcoming 19th ASEAN Summit in Bali this week.

Whilst welcoming recent changes taking place in Myanmar, AIPMC remains concerned by ongoing military conflicts with ethnic groups and the relatively slow pace of political reform and improvement to human rights in the country. It is vital, therefore, that delegates from members states ensure these issues are officially placed on the agenda at the 2011 ASEAN Summit.

“It is clear that the current government of Myanmar lacks the will to push through the necessary reforms,” said Eva Kusuma Sundari, AIPMC President and Member of Parliament in Indonesia. “Reconciliation is a prerequisite of any political initiative for peace in Myanmar and should serve as a critical indicator of how meaningful any democratization process is.”

Despite recent limited improvements, the government of President Thein Sein has demonstrated a lack of willingness to undertake genuine reforms, such as releasing political prisoners or ending armed conflict with ethnic groups. A routine amnesty of prisoners last month saw the release of roughly 10 percent of an estimated 2,000 political prisoners. Politically motivated arrests continue under the present regime.

The Myanmar government should enter into peace talks with the Kachin State government as an initial step towards a wider nationwide ceasefire and reconciliation process. AIPMC urges Indonesia and other ASEAN states to call on Myanmar to undertake these steps toward reconciliation and offer their assistance in that process.

AIPMC remains equally concerned that human rights violations continue to take place in relation to development projects in ethnic areas. Projects, such as the Yadana and Shwe Gas pipelines, undertaken by the government of Myanmar and fiscally supported by other states, have led to serious environmental concerns and human rights violations: land confiscations, displacement, torture, rape and other forms of systematic violence among them. An estimated 50,000 people have been displaced due to the Shwe Gas pipeline project, according to the Shwe Gas Movement.

A recent survey by the Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) found that more people in southeast Burma had been forcibly displaced from their homes during the past year than any other year since data was first collected in 2002.

With a view to protect human rights, we ask that ASEAN 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, as mentioned in UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Tomás Ojea Quintana’s recent report.

“Gross human rights violations against the ordinary people in the ethnic areas continue despite lip service towards reform from Naypyidaw,” Ms Sundari said. “If anything, life under this regime is worse for many ethnic minorities and vulnerable people than it was before.”

We ask that ASEAN strongly urge the Myanmar government to initiate progressive democratic reforms and to meet with human rights standards outlined in both the ASEAN Charter and international law prior to its taking the ASEAN Chair in 2014. Delegates should also ensure ASEAN calls on the United States and the European Union to continue using pressure tactics as well as engagement to push for genuine national reconciliation.

“The reform process thus far has been stunted due to it being driven by the individual initiative of President Thein Sein, rather than being part of a national platform for reform. Change that depends on the willingness of the president alone is not reform,” said Ms. Sundari. “It is wrong therefore for ASEAN to conclude that further incentives should be given to Myanmar in reward for superficial reforms.”

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.

For more information/ interview with AIPMC MPs, please contact: Agung Putri Astrid +62 81514006416

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