MONDAY, 09 MAY 2011
JAKARTA : Asean failed to resolve the issue of Burma’s chairmanship yesterday, the last day of the bloc’s 18th summit in Jakarta.
A statement from the current chair, Indonesia, only reiterated support for the steady progress and political development in Burma following a general election and the formation of a new government.
“We considered the proposal of Myanmar to host the Asean summit in 2014, based on its commitment to the principles of Asean,” the statement said.
While the news was welcomed by some exiled Burmese dissidents, their concerns have not yet been rebutted as the majority of Asean members including Thailand have expressed support for Naypyidaw.
Previously, senior officials and foreign ministers had consented to Burma’s request to assume the rotating chair, which it agreed not to take up in 2005 to pursue domestic political reform.
However, Indonesia reasserted that the question of Burma as chair was not urgent and could be discussed at the next Asean summit in October in Bali, sources said.
Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said Thailand had no objection to Burma assuming the chair as its November election was a critical turning point.
Asean has also stipulated that whenever Burma had a new government, it could resume the chair, he added.
However, Burma should also undertake appropriate steps including the release of political prisoners, freer mobility for the people and liberalisation towards democracy, Mr Kasit said.
“These components could seal Burma’s stronger chairmanship of Asean. It’s like a score-card,” he said.
Khin Ohnmar, from Burma Partnership, said it was a huge relief that Burma’s formal request for the chair of Asean was not approved.
But she noted that Asean should not fall into the same trap as when they accepted Burma as a member in the hope that engagement would help bring about democratic change.
“Asean should start engaging with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, ethnic representatives, the National League for Democracy and others to support the national reconciliation process,” she said.
Aung Myo Min, director of the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma, said allowing Burma to take the chair of Asean in 2014 would jeopardise the bloc’s community goal in 2015.
“How can a country with no respect for dialogue, for political and peaceful solutions, strengthen regional peace as a whole?” he said.