ARDA to ASEAN: Show some backbone in Burma situation

June 10, 2003
Singapore Democrats

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10 June 2003

Mr Ong Keng Yong
Secretary-General
Association for Southeast Asian Nations
Asean Secretariat
70A Jakarta 12110
Indonesia
Fax: 62 2 1 739 8234

Dear Sir,

It continues to amaze people across the world that the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has yet to take a firm stand on the situation in Burma even though the matter is occurring right in the Associations backyard.

Your comments as reported in the press demonstrates remarkable spinelessness in standing up for what is right and decent in the democratic world. It was reported that you had restated Asean’s policy of non-interference in its members’ internal affairs.

The oft-repeated Asean policy of “non-interference” is utter nonsense. You, being the former press secretary to Singapore’s prime minister, may recall that Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew said in 1996: “I have visited (Burma) and I know that there is only one instrument of government, and that is the army…If I were Aung San Suu Kyi, I think I’d rather be behind a fence and be a symbol than after two or three years, be found impotent.”

This is in spite of the fact that the Burmese people categorically threw out the military regime and overwhelmingly voted for the National League for Democracy, which Aung San Suu Kyi leads, in the national elections in 1990. If Mr Lee Kuan Yews comments, backed up by huge amounts of investment money from Singapore, is not interfering in Burmas internal affairs, what is?

You are also reported to have said: “We hope that the Myanmar government will try to do its best to calm the situation and put its views across.” You forget to mention that it was the government that first instigated popular revolt when it embarked on a bloody crackdown and suppression on Burmese citizens ten years ago and continues to lead the country towards ruin.

The Alliance for Reform and Democracy (ARDA) in Asia calls on Asean to shake off its dastardly stance on Burma and, one, unequivocally denounce the actions of the military regime in Burma and, two, take concrete steps to secure the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters now under custody.

Sincerely,

Chee Soon Juan
Chairman
Alliance for Reform and Democracy in Asia

For more information on ARDA, please visit http://www.asiademocracy.org

Website group calls for review on “non-interference” policy

Meanwhile, a website group, The Optical, has also called on the Singapore government to address the arrest of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her followers:

“Asean Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong yesterday expressed concern over the developments in Myanmar. He also restated Asean’s policy of non-interference in its members’ internal affairs. Mr Ong, due to visit Yangon tomorrow for a scheduled economic meeting, said Asean had been able to obtain more information about Ms Suu Kyi and indications were that she was well. ‘We hope that the Myanmar government will try to do its best to calm the situation and put its views across,’ said Mr Ong, adding that it was important to see both sides of the picture.”
Straits Times, 8 June 2003

One wonders what Mr Ong Keng Yong, who was the private press secretary for PM Goh Chok Tong until his appointment as ASEAN Secretary-General, means when he “hopes the Myanmar government will try to do its best to calm the situation” when the Myanmar government has been the one that has made the situation there unbearable for more than a decade.

It is also high-time that the policy of non-interference be reviewed. This policy has allowed the military government in Myanmar to usurp the legitimate power Aung San Suu Kyi and her party won during the 1990 elections. And so, the junta has stayed in power.

While there has been calls from several countries with regards to the recent detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and actions taken against her party, the National League for Democracy, ASEAN and specifically the PAP government in Singapore has not issued any strongly-worded condemnation but business goes on…

According to the online edition of The Irrawaddy which covers news from Burma, Singapore ranks at the top of the table for “Foreign Investment of Permitted Enterprises up to Nov 1999″….for further details go to http://www.irrawaddy.org/res/invest.html