Friday, November 16, 2007

ASEAN can help Burmese regime in peaceful transition to democracy

By Channel NewsAsia's Philippine Correspondent Christine Ong |
Posted: 16 November 2007 1903 hrs

MANILA: The Philippine Foreign Secretary, Alberto Romulo, is optimistic that ASEAN will be able to exert its influence on Myanmar, and help the nation to achieve a peaceful transition to democracy.

In an exclusive interview with Channel NewsAsia, Mr Romulo expressed his hope that the signing of the ASEAN Charter by member countries next week in Singapore will compel Myanmar to finally implement democratic reforms.

The landmark ASEAN Charter, scheduled to be signed at next week's 13th ASEAN Summit, was among the key documents initiated by the Philippines when it chaired the grouping previously.

"The Philippines hopes that the signing of the ASEAN Charter in Singapore will finally compel Myanmar to actually implement its long-delayed roadmap to democracy," said Mr Romulo.

The Foreign Secretary pointed out that the ASEAN charter may lose its significance if the grouping is unable to bring errant members into line.

Myanmar has been under pressure from fellow ASEAN members, as well as the world community, to move forward with democratic reforms after a violent crackdown on protesters in September which left at least ten dead.

"I think that is what the leaders of ASEAN should impress upon Myanmar," said Mr Romulo. "It should no longer procrastinate or string along the organisation with more promises, which in the last ten years they have been making.

"Strengthening democracy, deepening and enhancing governance and rule of law, adhering to human rights, there should be national reconciliation immediately... First step (is the) release of Aung Sung Suu Kyi without conditions."

Mr Romulo warned that further non-compliance by Myanmar could well erode the credibility of the entire grouping.

"It's not only Myanmar's credibility, but ASEAN and the countries composing ASEAN," he said.

"And in particular, when we sign the charter without implementation of the reforms - good governance, rule of law, protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the strengthening of the democratic process, then it is a hollow manifestation of these principles by ASEAN."

The Foreign Secretary is particularly proud of efforts by the Philippines to promote human rights.

"One of the important contributions that the Philippines made in the ASEAN Charter is the creation or establishment of a human rights body," he said.

ASEAN countries are also members of the United Nations, Mr Romulo continued to say, and human rights form a fundamental aspect of UN activities.

No comments: