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AIPMC Welcomes Election of NLD Members to Myanmar’s Parliament but Warns that Lifting of Sanctions Poses a Threat to Reform Process

By ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus  •  April 4, 2012

The ASEAN Inter Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) today congratulated the people of Myanmar on the successful exercising of their democratic rights in Sunday’s by election but warned the international community that the lifting of sanctions too early may provoke instability within the country that could unhinge the fragile reform process.

Following Sunday’s elections, ASEAN leaders have again called on the international community to lift political and economic sanctions on Myanmar and there is a strong likelihood that they could be removed in the near future. AIPMC is concerned by the possible ramifications of the lifting of sanctions and believes the international community and ASEAN should continue to use their leverage to push for more fundamental reforms and address the very serious concerns that remain.

“Myanmar lacks the laws and infrastructure to cope with the consequences of an influx of foreign investment. The negative experience of sizeable investment from China and other neighbours in Myanmar over recent years testifies to the social, environment, political and economic impacts that come with foreign investment and large-scale development
projects,” said Eva Kusuma Sundari, Indonesian MP and President of AIPMC.

“An influx of foreign money could create further conflict between the state and ethnic nationalities, and could provide incentive for elements within the ruling regime to block the necessary reforms that would seek to take power away from the military and put it in the hands of fairly elected parliamentarians.”

Authority and power in Myanmar remains highly centralised in the hands of the militarybacked government and its cronies and there are justified concerns that any large-scale contracts signed with foreign corporations will be made for economic gain for those in power, but at the cost of the people. Holding a flawed by-election does not undo the past injustices and gross violations of human rights committed against the Burmese people by successive military regimes. Focus must remain on the bigger picture. As history has shown, independent corporations cannot be trusted to act in the interests of the people of the country’s they are investing in; they must be regulated by both local and international
laws.

“A vast amount of work is needed to draft and enact laws and legislation to regulate business and industry and protect the environment and the rights of the people in the face of large-scale investment. Not only is there no reason to trust the USDP and militarydominated parliament to draft the necessary legislation, it also has no legitimate authority to do so. Sunday’s by-elections may have been nominally fare, but the 2010 elections were dismissed as a sham by almost everyone,” said Son Chhay, Cambodian MP and Vice President of AIPMC.

AIPMC recognises the need to engage with the reform process and believes the international community and ASEAN should continue to use what leverage it has and examine what assistance it can provide to encourage and build on these reforms.

However, removing sanctions will be seen as a legitimisation of the current leadership and will undoubtedly be used to stifle dissent and block the political aspirations of legitimate opposition.

“We still don’t really know why the regime has suddenly changed its tune. Without knowing this and without really understanding it, it is very difficult for us to trust that the reforms will be able to continue at the rate that people expect them to,” said Son Chhay.

“If the government was serious about reform it would be focussing on ending the conflicts in the ethnic areas and ending the human rights abuses, but the military remains entrenched in these areas. There are still too many unanswered questions.”

The government has failed to address concerns regarding serious human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, land confiscations and the recruitment of child soldiers. An unknown number of political prisoners remain behind bars and laws curtailing the most basic of freedoms remain. AIPMC fears the lifting of sanctions too early will benefit a military regime responsible for crimes against humanity and allow them to evade justice, thereby undermining the reform process and threatening the long term development of the country.

Before sanctions are lifted, the government of Myanmar must undertake genuine political, legal and socioeconomic reforms necessary to guarantee the rule of law and that will underpin the future reform process.

ASEAN should pressure the government of Myanmar to move swiftly towards conducting a comprehensive and transparent review of the 2008 Constitution and all national legislation. This review should be fully participatory, involving political opposition, civil society, and ethnic nationalities, and be carried out with the aim of amending, repealing or replacing laws that are inconsistent with international human rights and democratic standards.

The government of Myanmar should also ratify or accede to additional international instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention against Torture (CAT), and the Rome Statute. Provisions laid out in these
instruments should be incorporated into domestic laws.

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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
Kraisak Choonhavan (Thailand) Vice-President
Lorenzo Tanada, MP (The Philippines) Vice-President
Lim Kit Siang, MP (Malaysia) Vice-President
Son Chhay, MP (Cambodia) Vice-President
Teresa Kok, MP (Malaysia) Secretary

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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