Issue not whether ASEAN should succumb to US pressure on Burma but whether ASEAN should stop merely paying lip-service and be really serious in promoting and protecting human rights in the region
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Friday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday that it would not be constructive to merely apply pressure or impose sanctions on Myanmar over the detention of Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in response to the statement by the United States Secretary of State Colin Powell that he would seek action from fellow Asean members to pressure Myanmar into release the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
The issue is not whether ASEAN should succumb to US pressure on Burma but whether ASEAN should stop merely playing lip-service and be really serious in promoting and protecting human rights in the region after over a decade of failure of the “constructive engagement” policy advocated by Malaysia and ASEAN vis-à-vis the Myanmar military junta.
The ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh on June 16-17 cannot ignore the blunt and brutal fact of the lack of progress in the past 12 months since the release of Suu Kyi from house-arrest in May last year and the international commitment of the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) to embark on a political dialogue to pave the way for democratization and national reconciliation, and that there was major retrogression with the killings in the May 30 incident and the re-arrest of Suu Kyi and her supporters and the clampdown on National League for Democracy (NLD) offices, universities and colleges.
The June visit of the United Nations special envoy to Burma, Tan Sri Razali Ismail, to Yangon to kickstart the stalled political dialogue was completely derailed and the visit reduced to a marathon plea for access to Suu Kyi and her release from re-detention.
After the May 30 Incident, the Myanmese military junta took the country 50 steps backwards in democratization and national reconciliation, expecting the United Nations and international community to negotiate with it to take a few steps forwards!
This is completely unacceptable and intolerable and this is why the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh on Monday must redeem ASEAN’s international credibility and legitimacy by being in the forefront to get the Myanmar military junta not only to immediately and unconditionally release Suu Kyi, and her supporters; institute an independent and international inquiry into the May 30 incident but also to begin a serious and genuine political dialogue towards democratization and national reconciliation in Burma – not because of any pressure from the United States, but because this is what ASEAN should do to remain true to all its numerous declarations, statements and communiqués on human rights in previous conferences and gatherings in the past.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman