Thursday, July 26, 2007

Shocking Message for the Junta 'The Cambodia Parliamentary Caucus on Myanmar'

Mizzima News- Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Zin Linn

The military junta of Burma/Myanmar may be terribly shocked to know about ''The Cambodia Parliamentary Caucus on Myanmar ‘‘, which emerged in Phnom Penh on 25 August 2006. The Cambodia Parliamentary Caucus on Myanmar was launched by the Cambodian Parliament and the ceremony was attended by Parliamentarians from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries.

The Cambodian Caucus was formed and launched successfully with 26 Members of Parliament including 10 from the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), 10 from Sam Rainsy Party and 6 from Funcinpec party. The strong point is that the President of the National Assembly of Cambodia released an official decision on the formation of the Cambodia Parliamentary Caucus on Democracy in Burma.

At the opening ceremony, Mr. Son Chhay (Chairman of the National Assembly Committee on Foreign Relations and International Cooperation Member of Parliament Sam Rainsy Party) delivered a welcome speech and Mr. Zaid Ibrahim (AIPMC Chairperson and Member of Parliament for Kota Baru, Malaysia) made an opening address on behalf of the ASEAN Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC).

Dr. Sann Aung, who is the minister of the Prime Minister Office from the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) made a keynote speech on the current situation in Burma.

As the Cambodian Caucus chairperson, Mr. Son Chhay pointed out that for the first time the Cambodian government has condemned Myanmar military regime for non-observance of human rights and democracy in the country. Son Chhay said in his speech that the caucus would help provide Myanmar with much needed support in its current struggle for democratization and national-reconciliation. He also said that the Cambodian parliamentarians are convinced that, in view of their own national history and political experience, Burma or Myanmar military
junta would benefit both economically and socially from a transition to democracy.

Ms. Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand also sent a congratulatory letter to the launch of the Cambodia Parliamentary Caucus on Myanmar in Phnom Penh. Ms. Clark said that she wished the Cambodia Caucus every success and hoped it would contribute actively to the ongoing efforts of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) and to the peace, stability and safety of the region.

There was also a welcome dinner where MPs from six ASEAN countries, diplomats from embassies and the UN Agencies participated. At the dinner, Dr. Kao Kim Huon (Secretary of State Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia), Mr. Kraisak Choonhavan (Senator, Thai Senate), Ms. Loretta Ann P. Rosales (Congresswoman, PHILIPPINES Congress), Dr. Sann Aung and Charm Tong from the Shan Women's Action Network (SWAN) made presentations on what the ASEAN should do for democracy in Burma.

A remarkable event during the forming of the caucus was that Cambodia's Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen willingly met ten Members of Parliament from the AIPMC at the Council of Ministers office. The ten participants were Daw San San (MP, Burma), Dr Sann Aung (MP Burma), Charles Chong (MP Singapore),Mr. Zaid Ibrahim (MP Malaysia) and Teresa Kok (MP Malaysia), Djoko Susilo from Indonesia , Kriansak Choonhavan (Senator, Thailand ) and Jon Ungphakorn (Senator, Thailand ), Ms. Loretta Ann P. Rosales (Congresswoman, Philippine
Congress) and Mario ‘Mayong’ Joyo Aguja (Philippine Congress).

First, Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen explained the background and situation of Cambodia 's struggle for democracy. Then he expounded on his view on military ruled Burma. It was in 1997 when he visited Burma, Sen.Gen.Than Shwe told him about the obligation of drafting a constitution. In 2000, he paid a second visit to Burma and Than Shwe repeated the same subject about drafting a constitution. In 2003, when he visited Burma for the third time, he was also told about the seven-step road map or constitution to democracy. During the 2003 ASEAN summit, Gen. Khin Nyunt explained about the National Convention as an optimistic process in the seven-step road map.

But, Gen. Khin Nyunt, who had good relations with diplomats, was sacked in October 2004 and the junta played the same road-map tune. The National Convention was again in the limelight in 2004 ASEAN summit. According to Samdech Hun Sen, the national convention process has taken too much time and there has been no progress as yet. It was not in a direction to democracy. The National Convention may be a development but it was not an all-inclusive process.

In 2004, at the ASEM summit in Hanoi, European Union (EU) wanted to include 10 of its new members, ASEAN also wanted to include three new countries. But the EU refused to include one of the three or Myanmar. Hun Sen strongly proclaimed that Cambodia would not join the meeting without participation of Myanmar. Finally, all ten members of the ASEAN were included in the ASEM meeting. But Myanmar did not send its Prime Minister, only its envoy. At that meeting, French President Jacque Chirac and EU commissioner (now Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi) pushed Myanmar hard.

He has protected Myanmar as much as he can, Samdech Hun Sen explained. Cambodia is no more willing to protect Myanmar, which constantly fails to cooperate with the association. At least it will remain quiet on the Burma issue. According to the ASEAN Charter, there is no clause to oust a member state. It should be reconsidered as Myanmar becomes a problem child of the

There will be a meeting between ASEAN and the President of the United States of America George Bush to be held in Hanoi. Hun Sen said that at the APEC conference President Bush will surely refuse to sit down at a table with representatives of the Myanmar junta. A dilemma is emerging where the idea of ASEAN 9 may soon become a reality.

The launch of the Cambodia Parliamentary Caucus on Myanmar in Phnom Penh is really a big blow to the military junta of Myanmar/Burma. It was learnt that a day ahead of the forming of the caucus, on 24 August 2006, the Myanmar Embassy in Phnom Penh sent a letter of protest addressed to the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and copied it to the President of the National Assembly and the Ministry of Interior of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

According to one diplomat, there were some strong clauses in Myanmar Embassy's letter. In the letter of the Myanmar Embassy, Dr. Sann Aung from NCGUB and Shan dissident Cham Tong from SWAN were alleged as terrorists with unlawful associations. “Cambodia should not permit these terrorist-dissidents to enter the Kingdom. In addition, allowing these terrorists to participate in the ceremony and the dinner reception of AIPMC, will not benefit the promotion of
existing relations between Myanmar and Cambodia”.

People from all walks of life in Burma are suffering severely from lots of miseries rained upon them by the military regime which rules the country with an iron rod for over four decades and it is a widely known issue throughout the world. The consequences of spillover affects from Burma/Myanmar are directly flowing into the territories of the neighboring countries. Especially, neighboring Thailand is the nation most affected by Burma's socio-economic problems including political unrest; refugees, migrant-workers, women and children trafficking, 3-diseases, drugs, prostitution, terrorism and deforestation.

For the past 14 years, an estimated over one million illegal migrant workers have fled from Burma to Thailand because Burma's economy is in a state of collapse and it has led to the Thai government facing tremendous pressure, and socio-economic problems. There has been a massive influx of narcotics, including heroin and methamphetamines, creating serious national and transnational problems.

The 1,800 kilometre long border shared by Thailand and Burma is an area of instability, with border skirmishes, terrorism, prostitution, drug trade, illegal logging and trafficking of women and children taking place on a regular basis. The regime's negligence of health-care problems has produced a new HIV/AIDS flow into neighboring countries. All those questions originated inside Burma/Myanmar has led to bad relations between Burma and its neighbours, and has especially affected the region's stability.

If ASEAN, China, India and Japan do not support political reforms in Burma, the country will become a serious regional security threat involving the spread of drugs, human trafficking, HIV/AIDS, refugees and deforestation. Before the military regime is faced with such an embarrassing situation, ASEAN should review its policy on Burma and force the junta to start a dialogue with the NLD and Burma's ethnic groups.

The EU should also be responsible for sending a clear message to ASEAN in the ASEM 6 in September that they need to pressure Burma/Myanmar over the release of political prisoners including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. If the junta genuinely wants national reconciliation and national unity and wants to establish an authentic and unadulterated Federal Union of Burma it must start by releasing political prisoners.

It is the task of ASEAN to take a pragmatic approach towards Burma when the generals fail to fulfill their promises of political reforms. The organisation should also urge the generals to enter into substantive dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma's ethnic leaders to achieve national reconciliation so that a genuine democratic state can be born.

However, people of Burma were exuberant on hearing about the ASEAN Inter Parliamentary Caucus (AIPMC) Conference on Burma, comprising legislators from Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, joined by like-minded colleagues from Australia, New Zealand and India, in Kuala Lumpur on 21-22 July, 2006. All participants remain deeply
concerned about the ongoing stability, security and development of the ASEAN regional community. In its nine years of ASEAN membership, Burma/Myanmar has time and again been a problem for and an embarrassment to its neighbours. Myanmar's so-called roadmap to democracy has been exposed as a sham due to non-inclusive limitation. The 13-year old national convention to draft a new constitution is illegitimate and unreliable, elected political leaders remain imprisoned, and the humanitarian crisis has gone sky-high.

Since ASEAN made the decision to admit Myanmar, ASEAN must accept that it bears primary responsibility for finding a political solution to the problem. With the support of civil society, AIPMC has led the way for a paradigm shift in ASEAN thinking that forced the military junta to make dispensation, for instance its abandoning the chairmanship of the grouping twice. It seems that AIPMC contentedly welcomed this change of thinking and it is also going to work to extend the progress.

Even though the Myanmar regime fails to cooperate with ASEAN, the current economic, political and humanitarian crises in Myanmar that continues to threaten regional security obligate ASEAN to step up its efforts for a political solution. Only a political clarification may stop spillover affects from the military run country. Nonetheless, the forming of ''The Cambodia Parliamentary Caucus'' may pave the way to implement concrete measures addressing the problem of Burma/Myanmar. At least the caucus may re-activate the idea of ASEAN troika mechanism.

If the junta's generals are clever enough they will resolve the question with the help of the ASEAN Troika which will consist of former, present and future chairmen of the association. It may also keep away from the issue widening to the international stage.

Thereafter, the forming of ''The Cambodia Parliamentary Caucus on Myanmar'' in Phnom Penh which was launched by the Cambodian parliament is a very energetic move towards the people of Burma for it has been surrounded not only by parliamentarians from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) but also members of parliament from Australia, New Zealand and India. ASEAN should conceive the brainstorming opinion of AIPMC to work out the Burmese puzzle.

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