Asean: Time to Interfere
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Thursday, November 15, 2018


Asean: Time to Interfere

By Zaid Ibrahim APRIL, 2005 - VOLUME 13 NO.4

(Page 2 of 3)

Positive responses were received from five of them: Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.  The outcome was the formation in Kuala Lumpur in November 2004 of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus, of which I am privileged to be the chairman.


We unanimously agreed that the question of democratic change, particularly in the context of globalization, was inevitable and that Myanmar should be urged to make good its assurances when it was first admitted as member state of Asean in 1997 to move forward with its program of political reform.  This was all the more urgent and, indeed, unavoidable in view of the rotating chairmanship of the grouping being passed on to Myanmar in 2006, a decision on which would be made by the middle of 2005.


In effect, what the Asean parliamentarians from six of its member states embarked upon was a unique and interestingly well-coordinated effort to persuade their respective governments not to be deterred from encouraging the Myanmar government to act on the question of democratic reform merely because of the Asean policy of non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs. Their terms for Myanmar’s succession to the chairmanship in 2006 were extremely modest. They asked, firstly, that Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners be released immediately and unconditionally.  Secondly, they wanted the Myanmar Government to re-constitute its National Convention to draw up a new constitution, so that it was truly all-inclusive ensuring especially that the opposition National League for Democracy and ethnic nationalities were constituent members of that body.


Clearly, a convenient diplomatic ploy such as the reference to a somewhat inappropriate non-intervention policy in the face of serious external implications does not hold much water, seen in the context of the immediate and long-term future and well-being of all 10 members of Asean.


We feel duty-bound to raise the issue of Myanmar’s current internal stalemate and its unsatisfactory international reputation.  We are by no means limiting our concerns to Myanmar alone as we believe that it is our collective responsibility to push and prod our Governments towards more democratic norms in their governance such as recognizing basic freedoms and supporting human rights. If Asean seriously hopes to maintain and enhance the region’s economic prosperity and political stability, then it must inevitably follow the global trend that pervades the world over.


We do not anticipate that Asean’s bilateral and multilateral ties will be jeopardized by accommodating these international waves of change.

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