19 July 1996


ARTICLE 19 expresses concern over possible inclusion of Myanmar in Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN)

The following is the full text of a letter sent by ARTICLE 19 to
the Foreign Ministers of the seven member nations of the
Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in which it
expresses concern over Myanmar's possible inclusion as a member
and how it could negatively affect democratic and human rights
development in that country.

"ARTICLE 19, the International Centre Against Censorship, notes
with concern that a delegation representing the State Law and
Order Restoration Council (SLORC) in Burma (Myanmar) has been
invited to attend, with observer status, the forthcoming
Ministerial Meeting of the Association of South East Asian
Nations (ASEAN), which begins in Jakarta on July 20.

"Similarly, we are concerned that Burma, represented by the
SLORC, will for the first time be invited to join the ASEAN
Regional Forum and to attend its forthcoming meeting, which is
also to be held in Jakarta.

"These developments, we fear, will do little to encourage the
SLORC to embark on a process of far-reaching reform and to begin
an effective transition to democracy. They are likely also to
lead many people in Asia and elsewhere to question ASEAN
governments' commitment to political reform in Burma,
particularly as the ASEAN states' favoured policy of
"constructive engagement" has so markedly failed up to now to
deliver effective protection of the rights of the peoples of

"Eight years after assuming power in a ruthless crackdown on the
democracy movement, Burma under the SLORC remains in a state of
deep political crisis. The SLORC has manifestly failed to deliver
on its promises to move the country towards "open door" democracy
and continues to be responsible for gross and systematic
violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Optimism
engendered by the release from house arrest of Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), which
decisively won the 1990 general election, has long since
dissipated due to the SLORC's failure to enter into a substantial
dialogue with her and her party in order to bring about political
change. Indeed, as you will no doubt be aware, the
state-controlled media in Burma has recently been used to mount a
campaign of threats and abuse against Burmese advocates of
democracy, while more than 230 NLD Members of Parliament elect
were detained in May in an attempt to prevent the NLD holding its
first national congress since the 1990 election.

"The SLORC has reached cease-fire agreements with a number of
armed groups representing particular ethnic minorities but this
has not ended human rights abuses in Burma's border areas. There
are continuing reports of the use of forced labour, forced
relocations of civilians and other abuses, and there is a
continuing flow of refugees from Burma into neighbouring

"We recognise that Burma's neighbours are also being affected by
other grave problems, such as those arising from the fact that
Burma is now the world's largest producer of illicit opium and
heroin, much of which is smuggled across the country's borders
into neighbouring states with dire consequences for their
populations. Regional health issues also give great cause for
concern: HIV/AIDS is now rapidly spreading across Burma's
borders, and malaria, cholera and other diseases are gaining new
virulence due to the long-standing failure of successive military
governments adequately to address key issues of public health and
medical neglect in Burma. The continuing political impasse in
Burma is also frustrating attempts to bring about an economic
transition, whether by means of the SLORC's `open door' policy to
attract foreign investment or through `constructive engagement'
by ASEAN states.

"The ASEAN nations, we believe, are well-placed geographically,
economically and politically to play a key role in bringing about
rapid, peaceful reform and the transition to democracy in Burma.
It is also in their interests, as an important contribution to
peace and security in the region, that they should do so.

"If they are to help break the present impasse in Burma, however,
and advance the process of political negotiation and
reconciliation, ASEAN states must make it clear to the SLORC that
they will not accept Burma into the ASEAN grouping before an
effective process of fundamental reform has been implemented in
that country involving Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of
the democracy movement as well as representatives of Burma's
ethnic minority peoples.

"As an important first step, we urge ASEAN governments
participating in the Ministerial Meeting in Jakarta, to insist
that the SLORC release immediately all those currently imprisoned
in Burma on account of their peaceful exercise of the right to
freedom of expression, including U Win Tin, Vice-Chairman of
Burma's Writers Association. The SLORC representatives should be
left in no doubt that there can be no place for Burma within
ASEAN if they fail to release such prisoners of conscience and to
rapidly return the country to democratic rule."

Recommended Action

Send similar appeals to the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN member

  • expressing concern that the invitation to representatives of the
    SLORC to attend as observers ASEANS's Ministerial Meeting, and
    Myanmar's possible inclusion in the ASEAN Regional Forum, will do
    little to encourage democratic and human rights reform in Myanmar

    Appeals To

    HRH Prince Mohamad Bolkiah
    Minister of Foreign Affairs
    Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    Jalan Subok
    Bandar Seri Begawan 1120
    Fax: +673 2 241 717

    Datuk Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
    Minister of Foreign Affairs
    Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    Wisma Putra
    Jalan Wisma Putra
    50602 Kuala Lumpur
    Fax: +60 3 242 4551

    S. Jayakumar
    Minister of Foreign Affairs
    Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    250 North Bridge Road
    07-00 Raffles City Tower
    Singapore 0617
    Fax: +65 732 4627

    M.R. Kasem s. Kasemsri
    Minister of Foreign Affairs
    Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    Saranrom Palace
    Bangkok 10200
    Fax: +66 2 224 7095

    Domingo L. Saizon Jr.
    Foreign Secretary
    Department of Foreign Affairs
    2330 Roxas Blvd.
    Pasay City
    Fax: +63 2 832 0603

    Ali Alatas
    Minister of Foreign Affairs
    Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    Jalan Taman Pejambon 6
    Jakarta Pusat
    Fax: +62 21 345 0517

    Nguyen Mahn Cam
    Foreign Minister
    Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    1 Ton That Dam
    Fax: +84 4 259 205

    Please copy appeals to the originator if possible.

  • Source

    ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression
    6-8 Amwell Street
    EC1R 1UQ
    United Kingdom
    info (@) article19.org
    Fax:+44 20 7278 7660

    IFEX members working in this country 1

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