Call on ASEAN Parliaments and Parliamentarians, particularly in the five founding member states of Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, to formulate a strong ASEAN parliamentary position that Myanmar should not take over the ASEAN Chair in 2006 without release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners and meaningful democratisation
- on the Royal Address
by Lim Kit Siang
(Dewan Rakyat, Thursday): The Malaysian Parliament has attracted international attention because of a motion in the name of the Chairman of the Malaysian Parliamentary Caucus on Democracy in Myanmar, Datuk Mohd Zaid bin Ibrahim (Kota Bharu), who is also the Chairman of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) in the current parliamentary meeting that Myanmar should not take over the ASEAN Chair for 2006 unless there is meaningful democratization in Myanmar, including the release of Burmese Opposition Leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.
The time has come for ASEAN Parliaments and Parliamentarians, particularly in the five founding member states of Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, to provide regional and international leadership on the issue of democracy in Myanmar by formulating a strong ASEAN parliamentary position that Myanmar should not take over the ASEAN Chair in 2006 if the Myanmar military junta is not prepared to fulfill its promises and obligations on its admission as a member of ASEAN in 1997, by releasing Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political detainees as well as carrying out a meaningful process of democratization.
In the past eight years, ASEAN has nothing to show for its “constructive engagement” with the Myanmar military junta, which was the excuse given to justify the admission of Myanmar into the regional body. The Myanmese military junta had broken one promise after another, whether to the United Nations, the International Labour Organisation, ASEAN, international and regional opinion, with regard to national reconciliation and democratization to end the political stalemate in Myanmar.
Aung San Suu Kyi is still under detention nearly two years after the call by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Pnomh Pen in June 2003 specifically for her release, which had the undertaking by the then Myanmar Foreign Minister, Wing Aun.
The reconvening last month of the much-postponed National Constitution Convention in Yangon, described as “perhaps the longest charter-writing exercise ever conducted on earth” since the start of the constitution-writing process in 1991, was the latest “sham of shams” indulged by the Myanmese military junta in the past 14 years.
The National Convention, the purported first of the junta’s seven-point Roadmap to Democracy, has absolutely no legitimacy or credibility, whether national, regional or international, when
I applaud the statements which have been made by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister on the issue recently. The Prime Minister said in Islamabad last month that Myanmar’s military rulers need to do more than talk about their plans for a return to democracy and show “visible movement” to reassure fellow Southeast Asian governments while the Deputy Prime Minister expressed the hope that Myanmar will undertake democratic reforms ahead of the ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur in December this year.
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 individually, souring relationships between the region and the rest of the world.
Since the first working meeting of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus which was formed at the Kuala Lumpur Workshop on Democracy in Myanmar organized by the Malaysian Parliamentary Caucus on Democracy in Myanmar on November 26-28, 2004, similar parliamentary caucus have been formed in Indonesia and Thailand, with the Philippines parliamentary caucus on Myanmar to be formed early next month.
An unequivocal message by the Malaysian and the other ASEAN Parliaments giving voice to their deepseated feelings that Myanmar should not take over the ASEAN Chair in 2006 unless there is meaningful democratization including the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners should be sent out not only to the Myanmese military junta but also to all ASEAN Governments, in particular for the retreat of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers in Cebu, Philippines early next month.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman