Call on ASEAN Parliamentarians to endorse the call by the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners must be included in the current spate of releases involving more than 9,000 prisoners
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): ASEAN Parliamentarians must endorse the call by the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan that Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Burmese Opposition Leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and other political detainees, must be included in the current spate of prisoner releases authorized by the military junta, involving more than 9,000 prisoners.
Annan is correct when he said that Aung San Suu Kyi's continued detention is not in the interest of the process of national reconciliation and democratization in Myanmar, and that Myanmar's military leaders should seize on the momentum created by its decision in the past two weeks to release 9,000 prisoners and free political leaders.
ASEAN Parliamentarians must make clear their great disappointment and displeasure that the Myanmar military junta had been completely let off at the Vientiane ASEAN Summit without having to account for its failure to show progress in political reforms, democratization and national reconciliation in the past 15 months after the announcement of the seven-step roadmap to democracy by the Myanmar State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in August last year.
What is even more galling is the cocky and arrogant stance of the Myanmar military junta to administer a public slap-in-the face of the other ASEAN leaders and regional opinion by timing the release of information on the extension of Aung San Suu Kyi’s house-arrest for another year at the end of the Vientiane ASEAN Summit, without a single ASEAN leader stating any objection – in utter defiance and contempt of the call by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Pnomh Penh in July last year for Aung San Suu Kyi’s immediate and unconditional release as well as the repeated promises by the SPDC to end her incarceration.
With such a background, the statement by Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Laos yesterday that the Myanmar military junta intends to carry out democratic reforms, despite a leadership shakeup that strengthened the power of hard-line generals, lacks credibility.
Thaksin said after meeting the Myanmar Prime Minister Soe Win to urge him to implement democratic reform: "He [Soe Win] said that the government will never want to [move] backward and will be moving toward democracy and is committed to the seven-step road map".
The acid test of whether the SPDC has any bona fides to move forward and not backwards in political reforms, democratization and national reconciliation, or whether the Myanmar military junta is engaged in a new game of its incorrigible and unrepentant “one-step forward, two-steps backwards” foxtrot is the immediate and unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other over 1,300 political prisoners.
The SPDC claims to have released over 9,000 prisoners out of over 100,000 prisoners in Myanmar. However, less than 40 political detainees had been released under the exercise, which is less than one per cent of the current spate of prisoner releases.
The latest deterioration in the Myanmar crisis has made even more urgent the question addressed by the Workshop of ASEAN Parliamentarians on the Myanmar Issue, organized by the Pro-Democracy Myanmar Caucus of the Malaysian Parliament in Kuala Lumpur last week and attended by parliamentarians from seven ASEAN countries, namely Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia as well as Burmese Parliamentarians-in-exile who were elected in the 1990 general election in Burma.
The ASEAN Parliamentarians resolved that the Myanmar military junta should be disqualified from taking the rotating ASEAN Chair for 2006 unless there are substantial, meaningful and tangible results in political reforms in Myanmar on democratization and national reconciliation.
ASEAN Parliamentarians should keep up the momentum created by the Kuala Lumpur ASEAN MPs’ Workshop on Myanmar, which established a Protem Committee of ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Caucuses to promote democracy in Myanmar, by holding the SPDC strictly to account for meaningful political reforms, democratization and national reconciliation in Burma through proactive measures.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman