Wed 30 Mar 2005
Filed under: ASEAN,News,Regional
Putrajaya, Malaysia: The United Nations’ special envoy to Myanmar, who has not been allowed into the country for a year, backed Wednesday moves by ASEAN lawmakers to pressure the military junta for democratic reforms.
“The UN is always on the side of democracy. It supports the principles these people are pushing and these principles are very important for all government’s to adhere to,” Razali Ismail told reporters in the Malaysian city of Putrajaya. The UN envoy was commenting on a move by government lawmakers in Malaysia to strip Myanmar of the right to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) chairmanship next year unless it releases democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and speeds up reforms.
Making clear his frustration at the military junta’s response to his diplomatic efforts, Razali said: “I am deeply disappointed that I am not allowed to Myanmar for over a year. I can’t imagine this should be so.”
Razali said the UN was a friend of Myanmar’s and wanted to help the isolated country join the international fraternity.
“If I am allowed to return, I will impress on the Myanmar leaders to move according to the democratic plan, release democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and allow other political parties to participate in the national convention,” he said.
The military junta announced a seven-step roadmap to democracy in 2003 but it has barely got off the ground and has been denounced internationally as a sham.
Razali, a former top Malaysian diplomat, was last permitted to enter Myanmar in March 2004 when he urged all parties “to turn over a new page for a credible democratic transitional process”.
The move by Malaysian lawmakers calling for Myanmar to be barred from assuming the ASEAN chairmanship in 2006 is matched by a resolution pending in the Philippine senate.
Filipino legislators are expected to propose that the stand is adopted by all member countries when ASEAN legislators meet on the sidelines of an Inter-Parliamentary Union conference in Manila on April 3.
The ASEAN chair is rotated alphabetically each year among members Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Malaysia takes over the chair from Laos at a summit in Kuala Lumpur in November and Myanmar’s turn is due in 2006.
Myanmar’s membership of the grouping since 1997 has been a growing irritant in relations between ASEAN and Western countries, including the United States, and Razali said Myanmar could not ignore the increasing pressure from ASEAN lawmakers calling for change.
“Basically, if you join a club …, you should not behave differently,” he said.
Malaysia warned Myanmar in December that its pledge to move towards democracy could only be credible if Aung San Suu Kyi were released from house arrest.
The international icon of democracy and Nobel peace prize winner has spent various periods in house arrest since 1989. Her latest began in May 2003.
Her National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory in elections in 1990 but has never been allowed to take power.