JAKARTA: Myanmar’s exiled leaders and other opposition groups formed a new movement for democracy on Thursday during a meeting in Indonesia.
The so-called Movement for Democracy and Rights of Ethnic Nationalities launched its “Proposal for National Reconciliation” at the end of talks in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.
The movement is made up of the exiled National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma plus six pro-democracy groups, but does not include the main National League for Democracy (NLD) opposition party.
The NLD is headed by Nobel laureate and democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi, who won a landslide election victory in 1990 which the junta has never recognised.
Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 14 years since then, and was sentenced to another 18 months’ confinement on Wednesday in a major blow to her supporters ahead of fresh elections set for next year.
One of the exiled leaders Sein Win, the first cousin of the NLD leader, said reconciliation would fail unless Suu Kyi was released and allowed to resume her political activities.
“We have produced a detailed proposal for a democratic, federal union of Burma and we will continue to work in the interests of all the people of Burma. That is our job,” he said, using the old name for the country.
“Without her release and that of all other political prisoners, the process of national reconciliation cannot commence nor can the planned 2010 elections be credible.”
The movement’s declaration, backed by former and exiled NLD members, concedes the military an “important political role” as a “stakeholder” in the country’s transition to democracy.
It also refers to the “sharing of responsibility” among civil society, ethnic groups and the military for the rebuilding of the country, but makes no concrete proposals.
Organisers said the meeting had been curtailed due to restrictions by police after Yangon’s embassy complained to the Indonesian government.
Foreign ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said Indonesia could not allow exiled leaders to meet on its territory.
But several local parliamentarians held talks with the exiled opposition activists in a gesture of solidarity with the democracy movement, Sein Win said.
Indonesia is a founding member of the ten-state Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which is criticised for failing to speak out strongly enough against human rights abuses in member-state Myanmar.
Analysts have expressed scepticism about the effectiveness of the new movement and Myanmar’s fragmented exiled politics in general.
“The cardinal failure is its inability to connect with the people inside (Myanmar),” London School of Economics researcher Zarni, who goes by one name, told AFP last week.