Mon 29 Nov 2004
Filed under: International,News
November 27: The UN envoy also believes that change in Burma can only come from within the country, strongly hinting that international pressure may not work.
The United Nations special envoy to Burma Razali Ismail said that the UN did not have a clear strategy in dealing with the military-ruled country as he prepares to attend next week’s Asean Summit in Vientiane, Laos.
“There is no UN strategy on the issue, there has not been enough direction given by the (UN) General Assembly,” he told participants at the Asean Parliamentary Caucus Workshop last night.
Razali also said he believed change in Burma can only come from elements within the country, strongly hinting that international pressure may not work.
“Internal dynamics (in Burma) can bring about change, not external dynamics,” he told 100 Asean parliamentarians, activists and reporters who were present at a dinner that kicked off the regional meeting in Kuala Lumpur.
The three-day workshop is organised by the Pro-democracy Myanmar (Burma) Caucus – Malaysian Parliament, a body consisting of government and opposition members of parliament.
They are joined by parliamentarians from Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Singapore, as well as Burmese parliamentarians living in exile, at the meeting to discuss the human rights and democracy situation in Burma.
Razali ‘persuaded’ to speak
Razali, who had initially declined to deliver a speech but relented after being persuaded by Malaysian Caucus’ chairperson Zaid Ibrahim, also said that the Burma issue goes beyond the country’s democracy icon Aung San Suu
“Fifty-two million people in Myanmar should have equality for them to develop and be free from fear,” he added, using the country’s new name picked by the Burmese military junta.
Razali’s remarks infuriated Malaysian politician and activist Tian Chua, who was present at the dinner.
“Razali should be sacked for admitting that there is no UN strategy (on Burma),” he thundered.
Meanwhile, conference host Zaid Ibrahim – a member of the ruling BN coalition – slammed Asean leaders for hiding behind its non-interference policy and allowing human rights atrocities to continue to occur in Burma.
“We cannot understand how Asean can be silent on this (issue). Someone must stand up to this,”
Remove Burma as Asean’s chair
While demanding Suu Kyi’s release, he also called for the removal of Burma as Asean’s chair in 2006, echoing expulsion calls from international human rights organisations.
Asean has long been criticised for allowing Burma into the regional bloc – a move strongly advocated by former Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad – given its human rights record, which include the imprisonment of
over 1,300 pro-democracy activists and students.
However, in a surprise move, the Burmese junta released 30 of its political prisoners as part of its release of 4,000 prisoners and has announced plans to free 5,000 more in the coming months.
Yesterday, the regime freed another 500 prisoners from the notorious Insein Prison.
However, it is not clear whether political detainees were among them those released. Most appeared to be people sentenced to short terms of one or two years for criminal offences.
The military has ruled Burma since a coup in 1962 and it refused to recognise the results of a general elections in 1990 which saw Suu Kyi’s party, the National League of Democracy, won a landside victory.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate remains under house arrest.