Tue 28 Mar 2006
Filed under: News,Opinion
After all the anticipation, it seemed like an anti-climax that Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar did not have much to report after his short trip to Myanmar on Thursday and Friday.
This inference is sure to upset the minister who seemed to have placed high priority on a mission in which others had failed. But before he blows his top, look at how unfazed the military government has been in the face of international pressure, and how much credibility is at stake here.
Yes, Syed Hamid did go finally after much dilly-dallying by the ruling junta. Yes, he did carry a big mandate, being a special envoy despatched by Asean to see political and economic developments in a country seen as a thorn in the regional grouping’s side.
And yes, the Myanmar Government gave him a list of actions it would take in its road map to democracy.
But what else is new? What else to add to promises made to previous envoys? What else, more than what the military rulers have been saying whenever they come to the table in Asean meetings?
And no, Syed Hamid was not given the opportunity to see pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. In fact, he didn’t even get to see junta strongman Senior General Than Shwe.
But since the foreign minister had said on Saturday that his visit was a success, perhaps we should take his word for it.
“I told them it would have been better if I had been allowed to meet Suu Kyi and other political leaders as it would be a step towards their democratic reform,” Syed Hamid said.
“The reason given for the prohibition was that Suu Kyi is under house arrest and nobody is allowed to see her.”
It looks like we have not moved much from Square One as the generals continue to take everyone for a ride in as far as the so-called Road Map to Democracy is concerned.
The step-by-step process they always talk about is taking forever.
Syed Hamid did not seem to break new ground on a mission that was similarly embarked on previously by the likes of Special UN envoys Tan Sri Razali Ismail and Ali Alatas.
Just look back at how Alatas was cleverly received the last time he was in Myanmar some eight months ago – he was told constitutional talks (key to the road map to democracy) would resume, he held a rare meeting with the junta’s top five leaders (including Than Shwe) to discuss reforms at the UN, and later met organisers of a national convention charged with drafting a new constitution.
At the end of it, Alatas said the meeting with constitutional talks organisers and others with government-backed social groups were added to his agenda by the junta.
“It was quite interesting, but I didn’t come for this,” he said.
In many ways Syed Hamid carried a bigger responsibility than his former Indonesian counterpart, partly because Malaysia played a key role in bringing Myanmar into Asean nine years ago, not knowing that it would turn into the monster it has been made out to be by most of the Western world.
But thanks to the support of China, India and Thailand for military, economic and strategic reasons, the ruling generals can afford to put a dent in the credibility of just about anyone else.