Tuesday, April 13, 2010

ASEAN dream won't come true if it fails to discipline Burma, by U Zin Linn

ASEAN’s dream may not come true if it fails to tame its unprincipled member, Burma

By – Zin Linn

At the end of the 16th ASEAN Summit in the Vietnamese capital Ha Noi on April 9, the Chairman of ASEAN Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung called on Burma/Myanmar to stick to its “road map to democracy” and hold free, fair and inclusive elections.

Nguyen Tan Dung further said, “We were briefed by H.E. Prime Minister Thein Sein of Myanmar on recent political developments and the progress made in the implementation of the Roadmap for Democracy, especially the preparations for the general election in Myanmar in 2010.
We underscored the importance of national reconciliation in Myanmar and the holding of the general election in a free, fair, and inclusive manner, thus contributing to Myanmar’s stability and development. We also stressed the need that Myanmar would continue to work with ASEAN and United Nations in this process.”

The Heads of the ASEAN Member States, gathered in Ha Noi for the 16th ASEAN Summit on 8-9 April 2010 also agreed that ASEAN would act swiftly at national, regional and global levels to achieve sustained economic recovery and development for ASEAN in the aftermath of the global economic and financial crisis. ASEAN is superficially committed to accelerating economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the South-East Asia region, to strengthen the institution for a prosperous and composed community of Southeast Asian nations. So far one of its members is a military-ruled nation that pays no attention to the norms of the grouping. How can the association ignore the recalcitrance of its desperado member, Burma or Myanmar?

ASEAN aims to promote regional peace and stability through respect for justice and the rule of law compliant with the U.N. Charter. It has just stressed the importance of bringing the ASEAN Charter into life in all aspects at the earliest.

Yet it shuts its eyes while extrajudicial killings and violence against women and children take place daily in Burma, one of its members. There is no law and order at all under Burma’s military dictatorship.

Burma, world's worst human rights violator

People of Burma have suffered under high-handed military rulers since 1962. The regime has earned a reputation as one of the world's worst human rights violators. It inhumanly suppressed pro-democracy movements in 1988, followed by, during the Depayin conspiracy on May 30, 2003, and in the Saffron Revolution in September 2007, as well as in many other sporadic crackdowns. The junta has arrested nearly 2,200 political dissidents including the Nobel laureate of Burma, who has been confined to her residence for the 14 of the last 20 years.

The regime held a deceptive referendum at gunpoint in May, 2008, just a few days after Cyclone Nargis devastated the country. The junta said its 2008 Constitution was “approved” by more than 90 per cent of the qualified voters in the referendum, which has been widely dismissed as a fraud.

The worst of the so-called Nargis Constitution is that it provides the blanket immunity to the members of the military junta for their past human rights violations. It also provides a special status for military to live above the law and to practice coup at its will. However, to prevent the participation of key political figures, the 2008 constitution bars the political prisoners including the Lady and the ethnic leaders to contest in the polls. The constitution also does not recognize the ethnic people’s demand for a federal union guaranteeing self-determination and equal opportunity.

The regime has ignored calls from the international community and Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, to review the 2008 Constitution, which will only bring further troubles to the Burmese people.

People are convinced that, like the referendum held at gunpoint, the secret ballot will not be free, fair and inclusive. The junta may not be able to deal with the worsening socio-economic situation if it continues to turn down the national reconciliation process being urged by the opposition NLD, the United Nationalities Alliance and the Association of the Veteran Politicians. Without National Reconciliation settlement, Burma may not prevail over the current political and economic hardships.

Three key benchmarks at least for good start

In the mean time, ‘Burma’s movement for Democracy and Rights of Ethnic Nationalities’ which represents multi-ethnic political and civil society organizations inside and outside the country working for national reconciliation, has expressed three key benchmarks toward the military regime. Three key benchmarks are to release all political prisoners, to stop all hostilities against ethnic and pro-democracy groupings and inclusive dialogue with key stakeholders plus review of 2008 Constitution. Those benchmarks are appropriate as minimum conditions to be met to begin a good start for peaceful Burma.

But, the character of the junta shows clearly that it has no plan to pay attention to international and domestic concerns, release political prisoners or commence a dialogue for reconciliation. According to a Burmese forecaster, it is baseless to believe that the military dictators are going to build a democratic country by means of the 2008 constitution and it is also useless to wait for a helping hand from the ASEAN for democratization in this military ruled country.

Peoples from all walks of life are severely suffering from a lot of miseries under the military regime which is in the saddle for nearly five decades. The consequences of this reign of violence produce spilling over effects directly into territories of the neighboring countries, especially Thailand and Malaysia.

Burmese workers flee to Thailand

Over the past two decades, more than a million Burmese workers have fled to Thailand. This has placed tremendous pressure on the Thai governments which has been facing its own civil unrests. Trans-border crime has gone up with a massive influx of narcotics drugs, including heroin and methamphetamines. Trafficking in women and children has increased along the 2,400 km-long Thailand-Burma border. The regime's neglect of health-care has also produced a new HIV/AIDS flow into neighboring countries.

Within the country, the living standards of average citizens are rapidly falling. The situation is alarming even on the outskirts of Yangon. According to the UN estimation, one child in three under the age of five is suffering from malnutrition.

The junta’s generals are well-bred gentlemen in front of the ASEAN counterparts where as they are the inhumane dictators to their own populace, especially to the various ethnic groups in Burma.

ASEAN has agreed at the end of the 16th ASEAN Summit that it would act swiftly at national, regional and global levels to achieve sustained economic recovery and development for ASEAN in the aftermath of the global economic and financial crisis. If ASEAN failed to take responsibility taming of its unprincipled member, ASEAN’s dream - Strategy for Economic Recovery and Development – may not come true due to lack of teamwork among member countries, especially Burma the black sheep.

The suffering of the people of Burma has been going on for five decades. The member nations have a moral duty to do whatever they can to help the people of Burma reach a peaceful and sustainable political settlement. No effort may cause a dire reputation toward the association.

In conclusion, ASEAN ought to support three key benchmarks - to release all political prisoners, to stop all hostilities against ethnic and pro-democracy groupings and inclusive dialogue with key stakeholders plus review of 2008 Constitution – solving Burma question as well as raising the association’s dignity higher. People of Burma need ASEAN’s sympathy.

Zin Linn:The author, a freelance Burmese journalist, lives in exile. He is vice-president of Burma Media Association, which is affiliated with the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontiers.

- Asian Tribune - http://www.asiantri bune.com/ news/2010/ 04/13/asean% E2%80%99s- dream-may- not-come- true-if-it- fails-tame- its-unprincipled -member-burma