Call on ASEAN
Parliamentarians concerned about democracy in Burma to come together to form
an ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Caucus on Democracy in Myanmar within the next
two months in time for the 16th anniversary of the “8888
Media Conference Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament House, Thursday): With the formation on Tuesday of the first cross-party Malaysian Parliamentary Pro-Democracy Myanmar Caucus, with representation from parliamentarians from both sides of the House and from both Houses of Parliament, I wish to call on ASEAN Parliamentarians concerned about democracy in Burma to come together to form an ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Caucus on Democracy in Myanmar within the next two months in time for the 16th anniversary of the “8888 Democracy Uprising”.
Hundreds of democracy demonstrators were gunned down on August 8, 1988, paving the way for a military junta to take power the next month from longtime military dictator Ne Win.
The junta allowed free elections in 1990, which Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won convincingly, but the military still refuses to recognise the result.
This year, which marks the 16th anniversary of the “four eights”, should see greater regional and international efforts to put pressure on the Myanmese military junta to embark on a meaningful process of democratization and national reconciliation, starting with the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners.
Last August, the Myanmar Prime Minister Khin Nyunt first trotted out the so-called “seven-step roadmap to democracy” for Myanmar, but the National Constitution Convention convened by the military junta to draft a new constitution to be followed by general elections is nothing but a farce leading to nothing more than pseudo-democracy.
Last week, United Nations special rapporteur on human rights Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro called the convention a “meaningless and undemocratic exercise” and said the 1,000 hand-picked delegates meeting at a compound outside Yangon were under “mass house arrest”.
Although the delegates, from various walks of life, were allowed to leave the convention compound last weekend, they have refused to discuss the convention.
This is because the delegates have been issued prohibitions on everything from criticizing the army to discussing information about the convention with the threat of up to 20 years’ imprisonment if they criticize the national convention or make anti-government comments.
One of the first things the Malaysian Parliamentary Pro-Democracy Myanmar Caucus should do is to reach out to their potential counterparts in the other ASEAN Parliaments to develop the momentum for a campaign to forestall two impending diplomatic disasters because of Myanmar – the ASEM (Asia-Europe) Summit scheduled in Hanoi in October this year and ASEAN taking over the rotating Chair of ASEAN and hosting the ASEAN Summit in 2006.
European diplomats I have met are pessimistic that the Asia-Europe Summit in Hanoi in October could be held as scheduled, expecting it to be aborted because of the deadlock between ASEAN and the European Union over democracy in Myanmar.
A bigger diplomatic disaster awaits ASEAN when Myanmar hosts the ASEAN Summit in 2006. setting the stage for a greater showdown with ASEAN’s “dialogue partners”, the United States and European Union if the Myanmese military junta continues to be intransigent and contemptuous of regional and international opinion for democratization in Burma.
In Parliament yesterday, to avert a diplomatic disaster for the ASEAN Summit in 2006, I proposed the expulsion or suspension of Myanmar from ASEAN if no general election is held in Burma by 2006. I hope this proposal could find support in the halls of Parliament of the other ASEAN countries before receiving the serious consideration of the ASEAN governments and be the common theme for all ASEAN NGOs committed to democracy for Burma..
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader,
Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor & DAP National Chairman