ASEAN countries should use the “consensus rule” to by-pass Myanmar as 2006 ASEAN Chair if no consensus could be reached among the 10 ASEAN countries on the issue

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Parliament, Friday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said in Wellington yesterday that ASEAN has yet to take a stand on widespread opposition within and outside the region, including in Malaysia, over Myanmar’s scheduled take-over of the chairmanship of the grouping next year. 

He reiterated ASEAN’s commitment to “constructive engagement” with Myanmar and the consensus rule in ASEAN.


The ASEAN countries should use the “consensus rule” to by-pass Myanmar as 2006 ASEAN Chair if no consensus could be reached among the 10 ASEAN countries on the issue, as Myanmar should not be allowed to hold ASEAN to ransom by insisting to be Chair  of the regional grouping without being prepared to accept the national, regional and international  responsibilities that comes with the position.


In the past eight  years, the Myanmar military junta has transformed “constructive engagement” into a pejorative term and an ASEAN cross by treating with contempt the ASEAN consensus on the need for democratic change in Myanmar, obstinately  refusing to make  any meaningful progress  on national reconciliation  and democratization, including the holding of a tripartite political dialogue involving the military junta, the National League for Democracy and the ethnic nationalities.


Its equally contemptuous and cavalier dismissal of international opinion, contacts and interactions, whether the United Nations, such as the successive UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and  the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General, or the International Labour Organisation (ILO), would not redound to ASEAN’s credit if Myanmar takes over the ASEAN Chair in 2006.


The Myanmese military junta has turned Burma, once  one of the wealthiest, developed and modern nations of Southeast Asia into Asia’s  principal development disaster.   It has left the country in a deep economic, social and humanitarian crisis, which had to apply to the United Nations for Least Developed Country (LDC) status.


Yesterday’s suspension of the illegitimate and unrepresentative National Convention till November is further proof of the sham of the “Seven-Step Roadmap to Democracy” and the Myanmar military junta’s contempt for regional and international opinion for meaningful progress in democratization and national reconciliation.


ASEAN Governments, Parliaments and civil societies must take an united and concerted stand that Myanmar should not be allowed to assume the 2006 ASEAN Chair unless it is prepared to accept its regional and international commitments seriously and make up for its failure in the past eight years to honour its ASEAN membership commitments. 


The ASEAN norm of  non-interference in a member’s internal affairs does not apply on the question of the ASEAN Chair, as ASEAN involvement in Cambodia and the ASEAN Vision 2020 allow for engagement on issues that carry regional repercussions – which would undoubtedly ensue with adverse regional and international consequences for ASEAN countries whether individually or collectively particularly in their international, political and economic relations with the United States and the European Union when  Myanmar takes over the ASEAN Chair.


It is regrettable that Thailand and Cambodia appears to be taking up the cudgel on behalf of the Myanmar military junta to defend its reneging of its ASEAN and international obligations when Thailand had been one of the most outspoken advocates for greater democratization in Myanmar in the past.


The Myanmar  military junta has launched an offensive to silence voices in  governments and Parliaments in ASEAN supporting  denial of the 2006 ASEAN Chair to Myanmar unless there are tangible and acceptable progress in democratization and national reconciliation, such as the immediate release of Burmese Opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political detainees,  the holding of a meaningful tripartite political dialogue and acceptable time-line for political and constitutional reforms.


ASEAN, Asian and world  Parliamentarians gathering in Manila for  the occasion of the launching of the Philippines Parliamentary Caucus on Myanmar as well as the working session of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) tomorrow and the 112th Conference of the  Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Manila beginning on Sunday must show their seriousness and commitment to forge a new regional and international solidarity to help kickstart the process of democratization and national reconciliation after 17 “lost” years in Myanmar

The Malaysian Government as well as the other governments in ASEAN should respect the right and role of  their respective Parliaments and parliamentarians to work on an ASEAN-wide basis for democratization in Myanmar as well as to ensure that Myanmar does not become a regional and  international liability for ASEAN as a whole and the individual ASEAN countries, souring relationships between the region and the rest of the world.


*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman