Saturday, June 13, 2009

RI woos India, China over Suu Kyi

By Lilian Budianto
The Jakarta Post

Indonesia has sought support from Asian giants India and China to push reforms in military-ruled Myanmar, following the latest twist in the trial against its opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Both communist China and democratic India have kept backing Myanmar's notorious junta with close economic ties in a time when the Western countries and international organizations have considered imposing more economic sanctions on Yangon, following a fresh round of trumped-up charges against the Nobel laureate.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said Friday Jakarta made the request to China and India to push Myanmar for reforms in a UN forum, which convened envoys from India, China, Myanmar and Japan, as well as a representative from the multilateral body.

"Those countries play a key role to find a settlement in Myanmar's issue... and we very much would like to see them urge Myanmar to embrace the value of human rights."

Faizasyah revealed, however, there had been reluctance from India to act tough on Myanmar as "it might hurt its national interests".

London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) reported Myanmar has become China's closest ally in Southeast Asia. Yangon has been a major recipient of Chinese military hardware and a potential springboard for projecting Chinese military power in the region since 1988.

The report says India has also cemented ties with the junta by shifting its strategy away from supporting Myanmar's opposition movement. New Delhi has offered Myanmar favorable trade relations and cooperation against ethnic insurgents along the Indo-Myanmarese frontier.

"To exert more *pressure* on Myanmar, we want to bring the UN forum into a ministerial level forum but the idea has not been welcomed by India, citing concerns of its national interests," Faizasyah said.

The international world has exhausted unsuccessful efforts to push reform in the country ruled by the military junta since 1962.

The regional body of ASEAN, in which Myanmar is a member, has failed to hold Yangon to its commitment to enforcing human rights and democracy despite its ratification of the ASEAN Charter last year.

Indonesia came under international spotlight to further support Suu Kyi's plight, as the third-largest democracy in the world has boasted leverage to spearhead rights reforms among the ten member states, which have varying degrees of political maturity.

During an official visit to the US on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said Indonesia stood firm in pushing Myanmar to hold democracy but saying there should be more "engagement" methods instead of economic sanctions that might hurt locals.

The economic sanctions by the EU and United States have barred Myanmar from trade relations with themselves.

Suu Kyi has been charged with violating her terms of arrests by allowing an uninvited American man, who swam secretly to her closely-guarded lake side house, to stay two nights.

The 63-year-old has been under house arrest for 13 of the past 19 years after the party won a landslide victory in the 1990 election.

She faces up to five years imprisonment if convicted guilty.

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