Hamid should be even-handed and must be prepared to publicly criticize the Myanmese military junta and not just European Union countries  for the cancellation of two ASEM Ministerial meetings

Media Statement
after attending the Permatang Pauh election petition hearing to express support for Datin Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail at the Penang High Court
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Tuesday):  Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar should be even-handed and must  be prepared to  publicly criticize the Myanmese military junta and not just European Union (EU) countries for the cancellation of two Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Ministerial meetings - – the sixth ASEM Finance Ministers’ Meeting in Brussels  on 6th July and the sixth ASEM Economic Ministers’ Meeting in Rotterdam on Sept. 16-17 because of the repressive Myanmese military rule  in Burma. 

In fact, the fifth ASEM summit between Asia and Europe scheduled to be held in Hanoi on October 8-9, 2004 hangs in the balance and is most likely to be cancelled too, as a result of the same  deadlock between the EU and ASEAN countries over the Myanmese military junta’s  refusal to release Burmese Opposition Leader, Aung San Suu Kyi and all political detainees as well as to embark on a meaningful process of democratization and national reconciliation.


Hamid should raise  the Myanmar issue and the  likely cancellation of  the October ASEM Summit in Hanoi in the Cabinet tomorrow, for as the country chiefly responsible for Myanmar’s entry into ASEAN in 1997,  Malaysia has a responsibility to provide new leadership in ASEAN to break the  ASEM deadlock over Myanmar.


At a time when Asia and Europe should be in the forefront to promote inter-civilisational dialogue to prove wrong the Huntington thesis of a “Clash of Civilisations”, Myanmar should not be allowed to continue as an albatross hindering greater political, economic and cultural understanding and relationship between Asia and Europe or to sabotage  an important  inter-civilisational dialogue between the two continents.


The  Cabinet meeting tomorrow should give a mandate and directive to  the Foreign Ministry to propose a Malaysian initiative at the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Jakarta at the end of the month  to  salvage the ASEM Summit in Hanoi October 8-9, 2004  so that it would not end up in a cancellation like the two ASEM Finance and Economic  Ministerial meetings because of the deadlock over Myanmar.


The Cabinet should also direct the Foreign Minister to present to Parliament next month a report assessing the success or failure of  the over a decade-old “constructive engagement” policy to  bring Myanmar into the mainstream of international relations and become  a more responsible and legitimate international player, bearing in mind that the ongoing National Constitution Convention convened by the Myanmese military junta is internationally recognized as a farce – with the  United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights, Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, dismissing it as  a “meaningless and undemocratic exercise”.



Hamid had been Foreign Minister for some five years, and has largely failed to get  the Myanmese military junta to live up to its bargain of the “constructive engagement” policy to be a more responsible player of international relations with full commitment to  a meaningful process of democratization and national reconciliation. In fact, in his five years as Foreign Minister, Hamid  has not been able to have access and to meet up with Aung San Suu Kyi when she was under incarceration.


Hamid had taken a strong stand  in the middle of last year when he and other ASEAN leaders sought to pressurize  the Myanmese military junta to release Aung San Suu Kyi following her re-detention in May last year.


In response to this ASEAN pressure, Myanmese junta spokesmen like its  Foreign Minister, Win Aung had given very clear indications in June last year that Aung San Suu Kyi’s re-detention on May 30 was “temporary” and for her “protective custody”, even encouraging the United Nations Secretary-General’s special representative, Tan Sri Razali Ismail to express his optimism in the second week of June after being the first  visitor to Aung San Suu Kyi about her imminent  release and those of other National League for Democracy members within  two weeks. 

The two weeks have now dragged to over a year, with Aung San Suu Kyi having  to mark her two recent  anniversaries under house arrest – the anniversary of her redetention on May 30 is strong stand in June and July last year on the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.


Why had Hamid and the other ASEAN leaders failed to ensure that the Myanmese military junta had kept to its promises of democratization and national reconciliation – such as the unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi?

The Cabinet tomorrow should seriously consider the replacement of the failed policy of “constructive engagement” with Myanmar with a new approach and policy of “constructive intervention” so that Myanmar is not allowed to damage or poison  ASEAN’s important international relationships, including the cancellation of the  ASEM Summit in October.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor & DAP National Chairman