IID commends Indonesia’s stand on Burma, challenges RP gov’t, ASEAN to do the same

The Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), today challenged the Philippine government and ASEAN members to emulate Indonesia, which criticized Burma’s decision to begin its charter talks last week despite the absence of the major Burmese opposition party, the National League of Democracy (NLD). IID Executive Director Augusto Miclat said, “As a senior ASEAN member, the Philippine government must express its utmost concern over the undemocratic and unrepresentative national convention in Burma.”

The Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), a Philippine-based advocacy and solidarity organization campaigning for a genuine democracy, justice and peace in Burma today challenged the Philippine government and ASEAN members to emulate Indonesia, which criticized Burma’s decision to begin its charter talks last week despite the absence of the major Burmese opposition party, the National League of Democracy (NLD).

The military junta ruling Burma has billed the national convention as their “first step” in a “road map” to democracy and national reconciliation. But the convention opened on May 17 attended mostly by handpicked delegates and representatives of ethnic national groups which had signed ceasefire agreements with the junta.

Indonesia, current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN, said in a May 19 Foreign Ministry statement that it hoped that the process of implementation of the roadmap “would be all-inclusive, with the involvement of all groups with different ethnic and political orientation.” The NLD opted to boycott participation in the convention because of the continued detention of NLD leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi, massive crackdown on rights activists and the junta’s failure to act on the opposition’s suggested reforms on the rules of the convention.

IID Executive Director Augusto Miclat said, “As a senior ASEAN member, the Philippine government must express its utmost concern over the undemocratic and unrepresentative national convention in Burma.”

Need for opposition and ethnic nationalities representatives

Miclat said IID supports the call for a tripartite dialogue where the junta, the major opposition and the ethnic nationalities are given equal representation and powers during the talks. “The problem with the convention is the junta’s refusal to make the convention all-inclusive,” he added.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has said the junta “risked its credibility” by holding the talks despite the NLD’s boycott, while the United States and other Western nations said the convention is deemed irrelevant because of the NLD boycott.

The US government even issued criticism to the junta branding the said government as an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to the American security. Irked by the state department’s comment, the SPDC, citing the wars that happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, said that US should stop lecturing about them about democracy. Miclat also hit the junta’s dismissive stance of the US and “forces from the outside” pushing for democracy in Burma, saying that the junta itself has set no timetable for completing the seven steps in its “road map” to democracy.

“The junta called for elections in 1990, but refused to hand over power when the NLD won in a landslide. Are other nations not justified then in ensuring that democratic reforms are followed this time?”, he said.

Burma needs more than entertainment

IID also criticized the junta’s reported provision of “recreation activities” including golf and billiards games, TV and movies, and a stage show for the convention delegates.

Miclat commented, “Burma and its people need more than funny faces. They need justice, peace and genuine democracy, which can be achieved not through empty games and amusement but by restoring civilian rule in Burma.”

He said the incoming Filipino administration can start off on the right foot by making a firm stand on Burma, specially on the national convention process that is expected to result in a new constitution and democratic elections in Burma in the near future.

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