Malaysian Parliamentary caucus on democracy in Myanmar to be formed to monitor and ensure genuine democratization and that the military junta’s “seven-point road map to democracy” is not a sham to head off and neutralize opposition to Yangon’s hosting of the ASEAN Summit and taking over ASEAN leadership in 2006
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): A Malaysian parliamentary caucus on democracy in Myanmar is being formed to monitor and ensure genuine democratization and that the “seven-point road map to democracy” of the Myanmese military junta is not a sham to head off and neutralize opposition to Yangon’s hosting of the ASEAN Summit and taking over the ASEAN leadership in 2006.
Although there are recent reports that the military junta would release Burmese democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi before the constitutional convention it had convened on May 17, only time will tell whether any such release would be a significant restoration of democratic rights to the people in Myanmar as Suu Kyi had been detained and released several times since the current military junta had seized power in 1988.
The Malaysian government, which had ignored regional and international objections to spearhead the campaign for Myanmar’s entry into ASEAN seven years ago, has a special international responsibility to call on the Myanmese military junta to immediately release Suu Kyi and up to 1,400 other political prisoners before any meaningful first step could be taken in the “seven-point road map to democracy”.
The seven-year history of Myanmar’s membership in ASEAN is a sorry record littered with broken promises about genuine democratization and national reconciliation inside the country and grave embarrassment to ASEAN imperiling international goodwill and investment opportunities for the region.
There was great fanfare in the ASEAN Summit 2003 in Bali last October about ushering a new era for ASEAN because of the Bali Concord II concept of an integrated ASEAN economic community, aiming to achieve a single market by 2020, with a free flow of goods, services and investment in a region encompassing more than 500 million people and annual trade totaling US$720 billion.
The Bali ASEAN Summit 2003 however risks being remembered for the instant betrayal of the Bali Concord II concept of an integrated ASEAN community by the failure of the ASEAN summiteers to take a stand for democracy in Myanmar and their inability to realize that a sound political environment with minimal respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and good governance are indispensable to the successful evolution of a distinctive ASEAN spirit and sense of community.
The Malaysian parliamentary caucus on democracy in Myanmar, which hopefully would secure the support of all MPs concerned about democracy in Myanmar and ASEAN regardless political affiliation whether in ruling coalition or opposition, should liaise with its counterparts in the other ASEAN Parliaments to provide a strong and united common approach by ASEAN MPs to monitor, demand and ensure genuine democratization and national reconciliation in Myanmar.
It is proposed that the Malaysian Parliamentary caucus on democracy in Myanmar could be formed before the new Malaysian Parliament meets on May 17, which is also the date for the convening of the constitutional convention by the Myanmese military junta. This is to allow the caucus to monitor the re-convening of the constitutional convention, which was last held in 1993 and suspended in 1996 after the National League for Democracy led by Suu Kyi walked out saying it was being forced to rubber stamp the junta’s decisions.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman & Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor