Why has Malaysian government backed out from its short-lived frontline role two months ago to secure release of Aung San Suu Kyi and democratization in Burma?
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): In the past few days, there has been a flurry of diplomatic activities in ASEAN to persuade the Myanmar military junta to release Burmese Opposition Leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi before the 9th ASEAN Summit in Bali, Indonesia on Oct. 7-8, with the fruitless visit to Yangon by the Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri’s special envoy, former Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas and the visit to Burma today by the Thai Foreign Minister, Surakiart Sathirathai to meet Burma's top leader, Senior General Than Shwe and the Prime Minister, Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt on the same subject.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is also sending his special envoy, Tan Sri Razali Ismail to Burma at the end of the month on the same mission.
However, Malaysia is conspicuously silent and absent from the ASEAN diplomatic flurry to secure Aung San Suu Kyi’s release before the ASEAN Summit in Bali, despite the warning by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in July that the Myanmese military junta’s continued intransigence could lead to its expulsion from ASEAN.
Even the Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, who had earlier sought to visit Burma and meet with Aung San Suu Kyi has fallen silent after being unceremoniously rebuffed by Yangon.
Why has the Malaysian government backed out from its short-lived frontline role two months ago to secure the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and democratization in Burma? Is it a reflection of a policy decision to retreat from a progressive ASEAN policy stand to promote greater democratization and respect for human rights to complement a harder domestic line on human rights, reflected in the greater resort to undemocratic laws in the country recently?
The Malaysian government should not back out of its front-line role to pressure the Myanmar military junta to immediately release Aung San Suu Kyi especially as it was chiefly instrumental in securing Myanmar’s admission into ASEAN in 1997, and it should support the exclusion of Myanmar from the ASEAN Summit in Bali unless concrete results of democratization are forthcoming within the next 10 days.
The Malaysian Parliament, which is in session, should pass an unanimous motion on Monday to demand the exclusion of Myanmar from the ASEAN Summit unless Aung San Suu Kyi is released from her “temporary” four-month re-detention.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman