Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Asean Calls for Inclusive Election; Release of All Political Prisoners

The Irrawaddy News

PHUKET, Thailand — Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) called for the immediate release of Burma’s political prisoners including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi as well as free, fair and inclusive elections in 2010, at the conclusion of the two-day Asean Ministerial Meeting on Monday in Phuket, Thailand.

“We encouraged the Myanmar [Burma] Government to hold free, fair and inclusive elections in 2010, thereby laying down a good foundation for future social and economic development,” said the joint communiqué of the 42nd AMM.

Although Asean’s statement is the same essentially as that of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Burma, it focuses on different principles from that of two significant stakeholders in Burmese politics such as Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) and various ethnic ceasefire armed groups.

The NLD and the main ceasefire groups, such the United Wa State Army and the Kachin Independence Army, have emphasized the need for a review of Burma’s new constitution to resolve the political crisis and promote genuine national reconciliation.

In the Asean foreign ministers’ joint-statement, titled “Acting Together to Cope with Global Challenges,” said the release of political prisoners was a way to pave the way for meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders in Burmese politics.

Asean ministers also seemed to support what they call a “constructive engagement policy” on Burma by reiterating that the Burmese delegation said “international pressure and economic

sanctions on Burma for changing course were ‘hampering’ democratization and development of the country.”

Critics of Asean’s “constructive engagement policy” towards Burma say that for more than a decade, the policy has failed to bring positive changes to Burma.

The statement mentioned the regional problem of human trafficking and the need to enhance cooperation between the countries of origin, transit and destination as a way to address the issue. No mention was made of the North Korea issue or of the Rohingya immigration issue.

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