Violent repression of “saffron revolution” – an ASEAN failure and responsibility for which ASEAN nations must make amends

Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar yesterday called on the military junta in Myanmar to begin immediate talks with pre-democracy supporters led by Aung San Suu Kyi to discuss the future of Myanmar before the international community “piles on the pressure”.

While Hamid’s call is welcome, the question must be asked as to what ASEAN is doing to pressure the Myanmar military junta to conduct itself not only as a responsible member of the international community but also of ASEAN in terms of the most minimal respect for human rights and democratic freedoms for its people.

After admitting Myanmar as a member for a decade, ASEAN cannot just wash its hands of any responsibility for what had happened in Burma and just “pass the buck” to the international community to “pile up the pressure”.

Since the brutal and violent repression of the “saffron revolution” two weeks ago, ASEAN government leaders have been using stronger language than before against the Myanmar military junta, starting with the expression of “revulsion” by the ASEAN foreign ministers at the United Nations over the killings and suppression of the monks-led peaceful protests.

Just stronger language however is grossly inadequate to the brutal and bloody crackdown of the monks-led peaceful protests in Burma if it is not matched with action.

The Myanmar military junta was admitted into ASEAN ten years ago in the teeth of regional and international opposition on the ground that the ASEAN constructive engagement policy with the Myanmar military junta would pave the way for national reconciliation and democratization in Burma.

In the past ten years, the ASEAN constructive engagement policy has turned out to be a one-way unconditional engagement with the Myanmar military junta, yielding no results whatsosever. It has now been totally discredited by the violent repression of the “saffron revolution”, with troops quashing the peaceful protests with gunfire.

The military junta said 10 people were killed, but dissident groups put the death toll at up to 200, with some accounts in four-figure numbers, and with as many as 6,000 people detained. There is now a reign of terror in Burma.

ASEAN must not shirk from its responsibility for the violent repression of peaceful protests in Burma, for by admitting the Myanmar military junta as a member ten years ago, ASEAN had given legitimacy and helped the military junta to consolidate its rule resulting in the bloody repression of the “saffron revolution” — 19 years after the 1988 carnage.

ASEAN is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and the 13th ASEAN Summit will be held in Singapore next month. A top priority of the Singapore ASEAN Summit should be a post-mortem on the failure of the ASEAN constructive engagement policy with the Myanmar military junta to pave the way for national reconciliation and democratization in Burma and how ASEAN can make amends for such a failure which as resulted in greater sufferings for the people of Burma.

Steps to make amends for such a failure should include the options of expulsion or suspension of Myanmar from ASEAN.

There are horror stories from Burma about military atrocities, of one hundred shot dead outside a Burmese school and activists burned alive at government crematoriums. These horror stories are filling Burmese blogs and dissident sites but the tight security of the repressive regime has made it impossible to verify how many people are dead, detained or missing.

ASEAN should send high-level fact-finding mission to Myanmar to ascertain the latest situation as it concerns not only Myanmar but also affects the credibility and legitimacy of ASEAN as a whole.

If the Myanmar military junta is not prepared to allow such an ASEAN fact-finding mission, then what is the justification for its continuing membership in ASEAN?

Another measure for Malaysia and the other ASEAN countries as part of making amends for the ten-year failure of the constructive engagement policy resulting in greater hardships and sufferings to the people of Burma is to accord special refugee status to all Burmese of all ethnicities in their respective countries and to stop persecuting them as illegal immigrants.

[Speech at the public forum “Burma — Road to Democracy” jointly organized by Amnesty International Malaysia, Youth for Change (Y4C), SUARAM and Civil Rights Committee (CRC) of KL/Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, 8th October 2007]

  1. #1 by carboncopy on Tuesday, 9 October 2007 - 11:32 am

    Two face diplomacy!

    In front scolding the junta in Burma.

    At the back, carting oil and gas out and paying lots of money to the junta.

    Our current administration is as guilty as those junta in Burma for the mass murder and terror. Our current administration encouraged and funded the junta by its massive economic engagement. For example, Petronas.

  2. #2 by Godfather on Tuesday, 9 October 2007 - 12:54 pm

    MONEY TALKS AND BULLSH!T WALKS so goes the American saying.

    The three biggest prostitutes in ASEAN are Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. Singapore allows the Junta’s wealth to be kept or channelled through the island. Thailand is the biggest metals, minerals and precious stones buyer from Burma. Malaysia’s Petronas craves for oil and gas. Do you really think that they will take action against their strategic trading “partner”?

    Just last week, Lee Hsien Loong was asked why Singapore isn’t doing much to put pressure on Burma’s military dictators. He was asked why Singapore allows Burma’s generals to bank with Singaporean banks, and keep their wealth in Singapore. He was also asked why the rich Burmese (aka relatives of the military) are allowed to seek advanced medical treatment in Singapore. Hsien Loong’s reply probably made most people puke.

    On banking, he said that Singapore applies the same standards as any major financial centre like Hong Kong or Tokyo. He forgot to mention that HK or Tokyo are not members of ASEAN, and would readily boot out Burma’s generals from banking in those jurisdictions.

    On medical treatment, he said that it was ”against the hippocratic oath” and that Singapore welcomes whoever that needed treatment. Of course he didn’t say that Singapore welcomes those who could pay and pay (PAP).

    Such hypocrisy is symptomatic of ASEAN. Money talks.

  3. #3 by sotong on Tuesday, 9 October 2007 - 2:15 pm

    ASEAN is a joke.

    There is no strong intention to ensure basic human rights are protected……most leaders in ASEAN are authoritarian and are not interested in the Burmese problems.

    The leaders only care about $$$$$$ and economic expliotation of the poor and powerless!

  4. #4 by k1980 on Tuesday, 9 October 2007 - 6:43 pm
    Strategically, Myanmar is as important to China as the Middle East is to the US. China cares more about the political stability of its neighbours than human rights and democracy; the US cares about such a nuisance insofar as it affects its ability to serve and maintain its own military and economic interests. Under no circumstances will China allow America a significant role in Myanmar, a country with which it shares a 2,000-kilometer border. The US, on the other hand, pays lip service to democracy in Myanmar, and its continued support of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) is aimed mainly at maintaining a foothold in Myanmar for a possible future role should tensions heat up with China.

    If Iraq has been a lesson of any worth, it is that the Myanmar people are much better off without American bombers or British napalm. True reforms and democracy can only come from within, from the closed fists of the determined dispossessed.

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