By Zin Linn
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been considered granting military-led Myanmar (Burma) the chair of the grouping in 2014, despite of grave concerns about human rights violations and pretense democratic system.
Senior ASEAN officials meeting in May in Jakarta ahead of a leadership summit at the weekend said Burma had sought the chair of the 10-nation bloc in 2014, when communist Laos was due to take the job. At the meeting, the Laotian officials said that they would not mind switching with Burma with its chair in 2014. Cambodia and Brunei will take the AEAN chair in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
The ex-general and new President Thein Sein-led namesake civilian government of Burma is upset to gain ASEAN’s backing. If it accepted as chairman of the organization would definitely provide them crucial recognition. Burma under the former military junta missed out its turn as chair of ASEAN in 2006 because of strong international objections led by Western countries.
Now, on 14 October, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said that he would visit Burma at the end of this month to evaluate the country’s reform improvement, according to the Jakarta Globe.
Burma is seeking to be the chair of the 10–member Association of South–East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2014, but an answer to the proposal has been postponed during an assessment of its development towards democratization.
Natalegawa said that he will visit Burma at the end of October to assess developments in Burma, in line with the mandate given to him by the ASEAN. The journey is likely to be part of a fact-finding task to verify if Burma is prepared to take the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in 2014. Indonesia is the current chair of ASEAN.
As the Natalegawa embark on his assessment mission to Burma this week, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP) based in the Thai-Burma border areas has spoken some grounds for which ASEAN should hold up its decision concerning Burma’s chairmanship.
Speaking at a press conference in Bangkok today, Bo Kyi, Joint-Secretary of AAPP said that although government freed 237 political prisoners on 12 October, there are still more than 1,700 political prisoners in Burma’s notorious prisons where inmates could get little medical cure.
The fates of the detained political prisoners are uncertain because there is evidence of using inmates as porters in the battleground in ethnic states, Bo Kyi said.
During the press conference, Burma Partnership coordinator Khin Ohmar said the pro-democracy movement was still running in place, as President Thein Sein’s government needs more significant steps forward in democracy transformation. Burma’s chairmanship turn will appear in 2016, and there will be next election in 2015, she said. Hence, firstly, the government should show the next election is free and fair.
At the press panel, Mr. Kraisak Choonhavan, former Member of the Thai Parliament and chair of the Thai national AIPMC caucus, said that Burmese political dissidents in exile must be more active to watch some changes proceeding in Burma.
Jakarta-based ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) released a Press Statement dated 17 June 2011 calling for urgent peace talks in Burma and reliable action by ASEAN. AIPMC strongly condemns the decision by the Thein Sein government to dispatch heavily armed troops into Kachin State and the concomitant outbreak of fighting, which brings an end to seventeen years of ceasefire between the government and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
According to AIPMC , the armed conflict in Kachin State reveals that the new President Thein Sein and government has not changed its habits since it was elected in a sham election in November 2010. Moreover, it will keep on ruling by force rather than looking for a power-sharing agreement with ethnic nationalities.
AIPMC also says it observes no improvement towards democracy in the country if the new parliament remains powerless to act on behalf of the population. On the other hand, the new Thein Sein government has been failing in its responsibility to protect the people.
Additionally, national reconciliation dialogue between the government, ethnic nationalities and other opposition groups should be set up urgently, AIPMC claims all the time.
The major demand by the AIPMC is that Indonesian FM and chairman of ASEAN, Marty Natalegawa, together with other ASEAN leaders have to reject Burma’s application to chair ASEAN in 2014 since it fails to start genuine steps for change.