By Zin Linn
The ASEAN Inter Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) on Tuesday welcomed the results of the Myanmar (Burma) by-elections held on April 1, even though there are allegations of irregularities. However, it calls on ASEAN to raise the issue of ongoing violence and conflict in the country’s ethnic areas during the ASEAN Summit from April 3 – 4 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
In its press statement, Eva Kusuma Sundari, Indonesian MP and AIPMC President said, “While the elections in [Burma] this Sunday can be seen as a step in the right direction, we must not forget that they have been overshadowed not only by widespread and well documented allegations of electoral improprieties, but also the continued violence and human rights abuses taking place in the ethnic areas.”
“We congratulate Daw Aung Sang Suu Kyi on this historic day for her and her party and we stand by her in her continued efforts to bring human rights, justice and democracy to the people of Myanmar. But the hard work is still to come and we must not be distracted too long by this election. The serious issue of continued conflict and human rights abuses in the ethnic areas must be brought to the forefront, as the human toll of these conflicts continues to be too high for any of us to ignore,” Ms. Eva said.
AIPMC calls on ASEAN to monitor closely the situation of human rights in Burma, especially, the continued violent conflict in ethnic areas.
The caucus also spotlights Tomás Ojea Quintana’s latest report in March that Burma’s legal institutions were not capable of investigating and bringing human rights cases to legal process. AIPMC says in its press statement that ASEAN needs to watch closely Mr. Quintana’s report, which emphasised attacks against civilian populations, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, internal displacement, land confiscations, the use of human shields, the recruitment of child soldiers, as well as forced labour and portering.
Cambodian MP and AIPMC Vice President Mr. Son Chhay said, “It is still unclear whether this government sees itself as a transitional government or the real representatives of the people of Burma. We must not hold back until real and substantive reforms have been enacted and the army is neutralised as a political force,”
“We can take a moment to celebrate the election victory for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who continues to be an inspiration to us all, but the hard work for her and her country is still to come. And it is our responsibility as fellow members of the ASEAN community to stand by her and the Burmese people as they continue to strive for genuine change in their country. We will continue to impress upon our parliaments how important this issue is,” he said.
The caucus also points out that even if Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy Party have done a courageous job, their small percentage of seats in Parliament leaves them with little constitutional power. The caucus also urges reformers in the government to support country’s transition to democracy along with backing of the international community and ASEAN.
“As we have seen across the region, we cannot always rely on individuals, no matter how well meaning they may seem. We have to have the laws that protect us, as people can be changed and turned by power. When you change to a new political system, there will necessarily be many legal loopholes, and these holes must be plugged as quickly as possible. You must strengthen the systems and you have to neutralise the power of the army,” said Mr. Son Chhay.
According to AIPMC, Sunday’s by-elections were far from ideal. The Burmese government has to ensure that outside election monitors, including those from ASEAN, be given total access to any future elections.
Underscoring the call of ASEAN Secretary General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, AIPMC also calls on ASEAN leaders in the coming Summit in Phnom Penh to put into their agenda most advantageous efforts to promote the political transition in Burma with respect to human rights. The caucus also suggests ASEAN to keep on constructive engagement with the government, the opposition and the ethnic groups.
Moreover, in its press release, the caucus encourages ASEAN to pressure the government of Burma to go swiftly toward conducting a comprehensive and transparent review of the 2008 Constitution and all national legislation. This review should be fully participatory, involving political opposition, civil society, and ethnic nationalities, and be carried out with the aim of amending, repealing or replacing laws that are inconsistent with international human rights and democratic standards, the press statement says.
In conclusion, AIPMC urges the Burmese government to ratify or accede to additional international instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention against Torture (CAT), and the Rome Statute.
The government of Burma must stuff domestic laws with provisions laid out in those international instruments, AIPMC said ahead of the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh.