Fri 15 Aug 2008
Filed under: News,Regional
Five exiled Burmese politicians were invited to attend a session of the Indonesian parliament on Friday, at which President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was scheduled to present a state of the nation address.
The five-Sann Aung, Teddy Buri, Thein Oo, Tint Swe and Win Hlaing-were all successful candidates in Burma’s 1990 election, the results of which were ignored by the military regime.
Two Burmese dissident groups in exile, the Members of Parliament Union (MPU) and the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), said the five had been invited by the speaker of Indonesia’s House of Representatives, Agung Laksono, to attend the session, which marks the country’s Independence Day.
Indonesia’s Jakarta Post reported on Friday that a House of Representatives press release said the invitation mirrored Indonesia’s moral support of popular efforts to establish democracy in the member states of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
The press release said that during their visit to parliament the Burmese delegates were expected to report on how the struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma was progressing.
â€œThe House will need this in its bid to contribute to settlement of the problems facing the country [Burma],â€ The Jakarta Post quoted the press release as saying.
Roshan Jason, executive director of Asean’s Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC), told The Irrawaddy on Friday that this was the first time Burmese politicians in exile had been invited to attend a session of an Asean nation’s parliament.
He said that House Speaker Agung Laksono, who exercised some influence over Indonesia’s foreign policy, would have a private meeting with the Burmese delegates, although there would be no meeting with the Indonesian president.
Roshan Jason said Indonesia’s approach to the Burma question indicated a change in Asean policy. â€œAsean should have a realistic engagement with the Burmese junta,â€ he said.
Burmese commentator Aung Naing Oo, however, thought the invitation to the Burmese exiles had more to do with their links with Indonesian politicians than with a shift in Indonesian policy towards Burma.
The Indonesian parliament earlier called for a postponement in exchanging ambassadors with Burma in view of its concern over human rights there. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, however, went ahead with accepting the credentials of Burma’s newly-appointed ambassador, Nyan Lynn, on Tuesday, The Jakarta Post reported.
In July, Indonesia hosted informal meetings on Burma with the UN special envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, the Burmese ambassador to the UN, Kyaw Tint Swe, and representatives of India and China.
The international community has been pressing Indonesia for years to take a more proactive role in Burma’s affairs.
The former foreign minister, Ali Alatas, was sent as Indonesia’s special envoy to Burma in 2003 and visited the country again in 2005 as an envoy for the UN.
In recent years, some Burmese military officers have been reportedly studying at the Indonesian Military Academy, according to diplomatic sources.
But analysts say that although Indonesia favors democratic transition and political change in Burma, there are still dilemmas for engagement with the ruling junta.
Aung Naing Oo said junta leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe was a stumbling block.
â€œIf Snr-Gen Than Shwe wants to engage, the meaningful engagement can start tomorrow,â€ he said. â€œBurma’s politics are now dependent on Snr-Gen Than Shwe. As long as he says ‘No’ to engagement, diplomatic efforts by Indonesia and others to solve Burma’s crisis cannot succeed.â€