(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): Yesterday, the official press of the Myanmese military junta, New Light of Myanmar hailed ASEAN solidarity behind the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) and declared: "Asean-10 will soon become a reality, all of us being able to keep at bay any and all who would commit treachery to compromise regional peace, harmony and prosperity"
The editorial in the state-run newspaper also said: "Today, when the world must seek a new political order free from big-power hegemony, all emerging nations must unite in the kind of alliance that seeks friends yet give no breach for sinister designs and acts of subversion openly orchestrated and perpetrated."
The overwhelming majority of thinking and decent people of ASEAN nations must find this editorial obnoxious and revolting, for this SLORC newspaper was flaunting to the world that the Myanmese military junta had the unqualified support of the ASEAN governments for all its actions, including the repression and violation of the human rights of the people of Burma.
This implication that SLORC had the understanding if not the open support for its latest crackdown on opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyiís National League for Democracy, with some 200 supporters reportedly detained ahead of a party function marking the seventh anniversary of the NLDís 1990 general election victory, a victory that was never honoured by the junta, is a major slur and blemish of ASEANís international reputation.
ASEANís good name and international reputation risk being seriously compromised if ASEAN governments condone, whether explicity or tacitly, the latest crackdown against democracy activists in Burma.
It is time for opinion-leaders in all sectors of society in every ASEAN nation to make their reservations, unhappiness and downright opposition to the admission of Burma into ASEAN this year heard - loud and clear.
On May 31, Asean Foreign Ministersí are scheduled to meet in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the timing of admission of Burma, Cambodia and Laos, which are expected at the annual Asean meeting in July or possibly at an informal summit later in the year.
The latest crackdown by the SLORC in Burma, in utter disregard of regional and international opinion that the Myanmese military junta should accept the basic norms of civilised national and international behaviour, has completely destroyed the myth that ASEANís constructive engagement policy had made any tangible progress in contributing to democratic reforms or national reconciliation In Burma. ASEAN nations must let SLORC rulers know in no uncertain terms that unless they co-operate with ASEAN governments to produce results in ASEANís constructive engagement policy on Burma, with visible progress in democratic reforms and national reconciliation, it is not in anybodyís interest for Burma to be admitted into ASEAN at this stage.
In this connection, the Singapore Straits Times must be commended for its editorial two days ago under the heading "Myanmar has to earn its keep", where it said:
"Constructive engagement must remain as Asean's approach to dealing with the junta, but it must be made clear that this was never intended as carte blanche to deny the Myanmar people their popular will. Asean's charter obliges members not to interfere in each other's political system. Slorc has gained hugely from this disclaimer to take account of members' differing governing philosophies. But Myanmar should not be permitted to shelter under this cover in perpetuity.
... membership is not to be misinterpreted as Asean forebearance (or worse, tacit approval) for whatever improprieties the Slorc might inflict on a political opposition which won 80 per cent of the seats in the 1990 election. Accepting as a member a country which now numbers among a handful of regimes ostracised by much of the world will come at no small cost to Asean's prestige. Myanmar should be left in no doubt of that. Secondly, its conduct in its internal affairs should be consistent with Asean conventions for decency. This is no window-dressing. It is in a manner contractual in that the US, the European Union and other dialogue partners of Asean's can boycott consultations and collaborations with the grouping on what is judged as the unacceptable behaviour of one constituent member. Myanmar should not bring Asean into disrepute. It has a period of probation to get past -- and Asean can and must set the toughest compliance standards."
It is time for all decent and peace-and-justice loving people of ASEAN to speak up to urge their respective governments to defer any consideration of admission of Burma into ASEAN this year unless and until SLORC proves its sincerity and seriousness in wanting to co-operate with ASEAN to make a success of the ASEAN constructive engagement policy on Burma with tangible progress in the fields of democratic reforms and national reconciliation.
The latest anti-NLD crackdown on the eve of ASEANís expected admission of SLORC into the regional organisation should open the eyes of SLORCís strongest advocates and defenders in ASEAN that such an admission would send a completely wrong message as it would be interpreted as a victory for SLORC and would only encourage the Myanmese military junta to embark on a new and more serious crackdown against NLD, pro-democracy activists and the ethnic minorities.
Is this what the ASEAN governments want to encourage SLORC to do after Burma has been formally admitted into ASEAN either in July or November this year?