(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): ASEAN governments must condemn in no uncertain terms the latest repression and mass arrests by the Myanmese military junta, State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), to make it clear both to SLORC and the world that ASEAN would not condone human rights excesses and violations in Burma.
The strongest argument against the admission of Burma into ASEAN under SLORC is the prevalent fear in the region and the world that it would not only condone and legitimise the seven-year violations of human rights and democratic freedoms of the people of Burma but even worse, be a prelude to a full-scale crackdown against the remaining pro-democracy activists and the ethnic minorities, especially against Burmese Opposition Leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi.
The latest SLORC repression in Burma has reinforced these fears and made any admission of SLORC into ASEAN completely untenable and indefensible, as it would be flying in the face of regional and international opinion opposing the admission until and unless there are tangible evidence that the military junta is prepared to accept the basic norms of civilized international behaviour and make a serious attempt to salvage ASEANís "constructive engagement" policy from total failure and international ridicule and odium.
If SLORC could be so blatant as to defy regional and international concerns about violations of human rights and democratic freedoms of the people of Burma at a time when it is awaiting admission into ASEAN, what excesses would it not be capable of once it has become a full-fledged member of ASEAN-10?
The Foreign Minister, Datuk Abdullah Badawi, should summon the Burmese Ambassador to Wismaputra to express Malaysiaís condemnation of the latest round of SLORC repression and the displeasure of the Malaysian government and people and to demand for an explanation why SLORC could act so blatantly when its admission into ASEAN is still pending?
Is the rule of SLORC in Burma so fragile and brittle that armed riot police must block roads leading to the homes of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her deputies yesterday to prevent supporters from commemorating their 1990 election victory and at least 316 members of Suu Kyi's party who had planned to attend the commemoration had to be arrested?
In the 1990 general elections conducted by the military itself, Suu Kyiís National League for Democracy won 82 percent of the seats in a Parliament that the military regime refused to convene.
ASEAN governments must make it very clear to SLORC that the convening of the Burmese Parliament elected in the 1990 general elections is a precondition for any admission of Burma into ASEAN.
The convening of the Burmese Parliament elected in 1990 would go a long way to salvage ASEANís constructive engagement policy to pave the way for democratic reforms and national reconciliation in Burma and in the process, redeem ASEANís tattered international image and reputation for its hitherto failed Burma policy.
Asean governments should take serious note of the fact that this is the second straight year that SLORC had arrested hundreds of Suu Kyi's followers to prevent them from commemorating the 1990 election.
SLORC has denied it has arrested anyone. It made the same denial after detaining 262 members of Suu Kyi's party in 1996. About two dozen party members SLORC insisted it never arrested are now serving long prison terms.
Although reports from Phnom Penh indicates that the admission of Burma, Cambodia and Laos would not take place at the ASEAN Ministerial meeting in Kuala Lumpur on July 24-25 but at the ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur in November, ASEAN government leaders must convince the peoples of ASEAN nations of the success of the ASEAN constructive engagement policy before the SLORC leaders are allowed to join the regional grouping.