Malaysia and other ASEAN nations which have staked their international reputation on democratic reforms and national reconciliation in Burma by going against regional and international opinion in admitting the Myanmese military junta into ASEAN should be concerned about the lack of progress in the seven-month-old secret talks and reports that they had stalled because of dissenting factions within the military wary of the prospects of far-reaching reforms.
The ambivalent response by the Malaysian Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar to reports that the clearest indication that all is not well is that the the United Nations envoy who acted as a catalyst for the historic contacts, Tan Sri Razali Ismail, had been denied permission to visit Burma since January had only added to the speculation.
Hamid said that the question of the Myanmar government denying permission to Razali to visit Myanmar does not arise as the Myanmar government wanted the talks to be held under conditions of strict secrecy.
Hamid had diplomatically evaded the question as to whether Razali’s numerous requests to revisit Burma had been deferred by the Myanmese military junta.
When United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced in January that Razali had achieved the significant breakthrough in launching face-to-face talks on national reconciliation between the Myanmese military junta and Aung San Suu Kyi since last October, Razali had also said that his mission had been "very satisfactory" and publicly stated that he intended to “return soon” to Burma.
The “soon” has stretched to more than four months and all talks of phased mass release of political prisoners in the intervening months have evaporated into thin air.
The statement by Myanmar's Foreign Minister, U. Win Aung, last week during the informal meeting of ASEAN Foreign Ministers in Rangoon claiming that the secret talks is a “timeless process” is completely unacceptable and raises the question whether the Myanmese military junta is just playing games with the international community and for the sake of the media.
The ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting should be the occasion for the other ASEAN members to impress on the Myanmar military junta that the international community cannot accept a “timeless process” for its dialogue for national reconciliation and democratisation with Aung San Suu Kyi, and the military junta must show sincerity and seriousness by producing results - starting with allowing Razali to revisit Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi to restart, if necessary, the stalled talks.