Mr. Surin Pitsuwan’s dream of Burma will not come true by Zin Linn

Zin Linn The secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has called on Burma’s government to ensure the coming elections help lead to national reconciliation. Surin

 

Zin Linn

The secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has called on Burma’s government to ensure the coming elections help lead to national reconciliation. Surin Pitsuwan hopes Burma’s conflicts with the international community over its human rights record may also be resolved after the vote, according to VOA’s Ron Corben from Bangkok.

When Burma – also known as Myanmar – became a member of the Association of Southeast Asian nations in 1997, many countries criticized ASEAN leaders because of Burma’s questionable human rights record.

Burma has suffered under military boots since 1962. The regime has earned a reputation as one of the world’s worst human rights violators. It brutally suppressed pro-democracy movements in 1988, during the Depayin conspiracy on May 30, 2003, and the Saffron Revolution in September 2007, as well as many other sporadic crackdowns.

The junta has arrested over 2,200 political dissidents including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been confined to her residence for 15 of the last 21 years.

ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said on 13 October he hopes the elections will offer a chance for national reconciliation and help end Burma’s international isolation.

However, in last July, Burma’s ethnic Karen communities and rights groups said Burma’s armed forces stepped up attacks on villages in eastern Karen state, including the torching of several homes forcing hundreds to escape into the jungles. Rights groups fear the attacks may be the start of a campaign ahead of upcoming elections this year.

The military forces later torched the villages forcing more than 900 people to flee into the nearby jungles. Zipporah Sein, general-secretary of the Karen National Union, fears the attacks are part of a new campaign of intimidation by the military ahead of national elections scheduled for later this year, as reported by VOA last July.

Surin Pitsuwan hopes Burma’s conflicts with the international community over its human rights record may also be resolved after the vote, according to VOA’s Ron Corben from Bangkok.

When Burma became a member of the Association of Southeast Asian nations in 1997, many countries criticized ASEAN leaders because of Burma’s questionable human rights record.

Burma has suffered under military boots since 1962. The regime has earned a reputation as one of the world’s worst human rights violators. It harshly suppressed pro-democracy movements in 1988, during the assassination attack on Aung San Suu Kyi at Depayin on May 30, 2003, and the Saffron Revolution in September 2007, as well as many other sporadic crackdowns.

The junta has arrested over 2,200 political dissidents including Suu Kyi, who has been confined to her residence for 15 of the last 21 years. The secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has called on Burma’s junta to guarantee the coming polls help lead to national reconciliation. However, dreaming of reconciliation without releasing political prisoners is building castles in the air.

Burma has even created disagreement within ASEAN, because some members, such as the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore, have hard-pressed the military regime for political change. Other members, particularly Laos and Cambodia, are different.

After pressing on for several years, Burma is holding elections on 7 November, the first in 20 years.

“Myanmar has been a major issue for ASEAN in its cooperation, interaction with the global community,” Surin said. “We would like to see this issue behind us. And the only way that that can be done is to make sure that this election is going to be a relatively effective mechanism for national reconciliation.”

However, many critics are skeptical, saying the regime has made promises of reconciliation in the past without honoring them. Kraisak Choonhavan, president of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC), said the junta has often stated that it would respect democratic values, but has constantly refused to let its opponents participate freely in the political process.

Analysts say the 2008 Constitution and the junta’s unyielding adherence to its seven-step roadmap in the direction of the 2010 elections will create a highly unstable political climate. Without an agreement on national reconciliation, the elections will only lead to further political mayhem.

The Burmese generals’ intentions are clearly visible. Their practices are rooted in disrespect for human rights. Political prisoners, who stand on principle, including Aung San Suu Kyi, are not likely to be released before November polls.

Although, Mr. Surin Pitsuwan likes to see national reconciliation in Burma after November elections, the ground situation will not allow fulfilling his hope.

 

 

 

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