ASEAN urged to stop passing the buck on Burma

Asian Tribue
26 Oct 07

ASEAN-based activists have urged ASEAN to stop “passing the buck” on to China for the Burmese regime’s failure to reform.

Dismissing ASEAN’s claims that it lacks leverage to influence the Burmese junta members as a lie, the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (Altsean-Burma) claims that ASEAN countries have enough collective power to paralyze the SPDC Army within days.

“Burma relies on ASEAN countries – Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore – as its main sources of much-needed foreign exchange, fuel and financial services.

“If ASEAN were to exercise its considerable leverage to insist that the Burmese junta delivers genuine economic and political reforms, allies like China, India, and Russia will have to fall in line with their lead,” insisted Altsean-Burma Coordinator Debbie Stothard. Ms Stothard was speaking in Manila, at the ASEAN People’s Assembly.

“The regime is also afraid of the UN Security Council’s power. Indonesia which will chair the Security Council next month should use all opportunities at its disposal to ensure that a genuine breakthrough happens in Burma,” she said.

In a briefer released by Altsean-Burma today, the regional human rights group asserts that ASEAN countries must exercise their substantial influence on Burma’s military leaders to secure the delivery of genuine political and economic reforms, instead of using China as an excuse for inaction. The briefer reveals that:

* Burma relies on petrol and diesel supplies from Malaysia and Singapore to keep business running and military vehicles on the road. The military is the biggest consumer of fuel.

* Burma relies on trade with ASEAN for 51.3% of foreign exchange revenue, with gas sales to Thailand alone accounting for 48.4% in 2005/06.

* Burma relies on Thailand and Singapore as their biggest sources of new Foreign Direct Investment, constituting a total of 98.61% of FDI in the past 2 years.

* Burma relies on Singapore’s financial services to store and move the wealth that they drain away from Burma.

Ms Stothard urged ASEAN leaders to use its considerable economic leverage to pressure the regime to cease its witch hunt against monks, pro-democracy activists and ethnic communities and to commence genuine political dialogue. “Developments in the past few days prove that pressure works. The regime is vulnerable. It faces financial shortages due to its own mismanagement and irresponsible spending in anticipation of future oil and gas revenue. The Army, which has been suffering from increasing desertions, has been further demoralized by orders to kill monks during the recent crackdown.

“If ASEAN does not use pressure now, at this critical time, the Burmese junta will do its usual ‘one step forward two steps back’ dance at the ASEAN Summit in Singapore next month,” concluded Ms Stothard.

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