Myanmar military junta should be given an ASEAN ultimatum to free Aung San Suu Kyi and political prisoners by the ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting on Sept. 1 or face suspension from regional organization
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Friday): Today is the 36th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It is also the 15th anniversary of the infamous crushing of pro-democracy demonstrations in Burma on 8th August 1988, which saw thousands of students, Buddhist monks and government civil servants taking to the streets of Rangoon demanding democratic reform.
In Manila, the ASEAN Finance Ministers condemned the bomb blasts in Jakarta on Tuesday which killed 14 people and injured about 150, but they were conspicuously silent on the intransigence of the Myanmar military junta from honouring its regional responsibilities and democratic commitments to free Burma Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, despite its repeated claim that the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate was placed in “temporary protective custody” when she was re-detained more than two months ago on May 30.
The open snub by the Myanmar state-run media yesterday that United Nations envoy to Burma, Tan Sri Razali Ismail should not be credited for the reconciliation talks between Aung San Suu Kyi and the ruling junta, and that the talks took place thanks to the ruling generals’ policies, is not a favourable sign that the military junta is amenable to ASEAN and international opinion, demand and pressure for it to embark on a meaningful process of democratization and national reconciliation.
ASEAN leaders should not allow the Myanmar military junta to continue to dilly-dally and play word game, making fools of the ASEAN leaders and governments.
The Myanmar military junta should be given an ASEAN ultimatum to free Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners by the ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting on Sept. 1 or face suspension from the regional organization. If Aung San Suu Kyi and the other Burmese political prisoners are not freed by September 1, the Myanmar should be denied participation in the ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting in Phnom Penh from Sept. 1 -5, 2003 and its Ministerial representation should be turned away to send a clear and unequivocal message to the Myanmar military junta on the need to abide by ASEAN and international rules and norms of conduct.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman