Myanmar military junta adding insult to injury to other ASEAN countries at the Bali Summit when its Foreign Minister Win Aung behaves like Saddam Hussein’s Information Minister Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf giving nonsensical statements about Aung San Suu Kyi and democratization in Burma
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Monday): Myanmar military junta is adding insult to injury to other ASEAN countries at the Bali Summit when its Foreign Minister Win Aung behaves like Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Information Minister Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf giving nonsensical statements about the detention of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and democratization in Burma.
Arriving in Bali for the ninth ASEAN Summit, Win Aung said the Burmese Opposition leader was in good condition after surgery and will be freed “eventually”. He said: “We do not call it house arrest or anything like that. She is now at home recuperating.” He added however that it would be too soon to release her before the ASEAN Bali Summit beginning tomorrow.
At the end of the ASEAN Foreign Minister’s Meeting in Phnom Penh on July 1, Win Aung called a special press conference to declare that national reconciliation was a “priority” for the Myanmese military junta.
He also assured ASEAN and the world that Aung San Suu Kyi’s re-detention on May 30 was solely for her “safety” and that the “protective custody order” was “temporary”, and that she would be released “after the situation returned to normal”.
Aun Wing declared: “When we are saying on the record that it is temporary then it will be temporary.”
Except that Aun Wing did not explain that his meaning of “temporary” is “permanent” - like Alice in the Wonderland. More than three months have passed since Aun Wing’s assurance to ASEAN and the world about national reconciliation being the “priority” of the military junta, but instead of making progress in this direction, the clock for democratization has been set back as marked by the failure of the 11th visit to Yangon of the United Nations special envoy Tan Sri Razali Ismail a few days ago, in total defiance of the patient diplomatic efforts of the United Nations and ASEAN.
The “temporary” re-detention of Aung San Suu Kyi has extended into the fifth month and the only concession the Myanmese military junta has made is to alter the condition of her incarceration to that of house arrest a week ago.
It would be most shameful and dishonourable if ASEAN leaders in Bali should be so desperate to grasp at straws that they could commend the Myanmese military junta just for a change in the incarceration conditions for Aung San Suu Kyi – as suggested by some ASEAN officials preparing for the Bali Summit.
The Myanmese military junta is insulting the intelligence of ASEAN leaders with a Foreign Minister who could make such inane statements about Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention and ASEAN efforts to promote democratization in Burma and who seems to regard Muhammed Saeed as his role model.
Aun Wing’s statements could be quite amusing and entertaining, if they do not also concern deadly serious issues of the right to life, human dignity and fundamental liberties, not only of Aung San Suu Kyi and the detained pro-democracy activists but also the 43 million Burmese people.
Burma and ASEAN do not need a Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf who had bequeathed a treasury of “deathless quotes”. Two months ago, there was a report that the Iraqi military was itself fooled by the creative reporting of Muhammed Saeed. After Saddam Hussein’s Information Minister claimed that Iraqi forces had retaken the Baghdad airport from U.S. troops, the Republican Guard Gen. Mohammad Daash was dispatched to check out a rumour that four or five American tanks had survived the Iraqi counterattack. Daash returned to his headquarters in a panic. “Four or five tanks!” he told his fellow generals. “Are you out of your minds? The whole damn American Army is at the airport!”
Those who believe Aun Wing’s claim that Aun San Suu Kyi is not under house-arrest and is only recuperating at home will understand Daash’s outburst should they try to call on the Nobel Peace Laureate in her home.
Yesterday, I issued an Open Letter to the ten ASEAN Heads of State/Government warning that the Ninth ASEAN Summit and the Bali Concord II to be signed by the leaders risk being marginalized and trivialized if the burning issues of Aung San Suu Kyi and democratization in Burma are relegated to the backburner.
The Bali Concord II, to be signed by the ASEAN leaders at the 9th ASEAN Summit in Bali, 27 years after the first Bali Concord of the first ASEAN Summit, is to seal a new charter to mark a paradigm shift in the evolution of ASEAN from a regional grouping of governments when it was founded in 1967 into an ASEAN regional community based on “three pillars”, the Asean Economic Community (AEC), the Asean Security Community (ASC) and the Asean Social and Cultural Community.
The failure of Razali’s latest mission to Myanmar has imperilled the grand vision of the ASEAN Bali Summit to spearhead economic integration, political and security co-operation and a caring society of the ASEAN countries to create a strong and distinctive sense of ASEAN community.
The credibility, integrity and legitimacy of Asean are at stake. The ASEAN summiteers in Bali should not allow the Myanmese military junta to turn the ASEAN Bali Summit and the Bali Concord II into a farce or let Aun Wing to reduce it into a Muhammad Saeed joke.
The ASEAN Bali Summit must either ensure that the Myamese military junta agree to a Plan of Action for the immediate release of Aung Say Suu Kyi and other political prisoners and the revival of political dialogue for democratization and national reconciliation, or alternatively, it should defer indefinitely the proclamation of the the Bali Concord II setting out the vision of an Asean community or exclude Myanmar from Bali Concord II.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman