Monday, January 12, 2009

Not standing up and being counted on Burma

By Random Jottings

THE Philippines missed out on a gilt-edged chance to make a principled stand on the burning question of Myanmar—or Burma as the civilized world remembers this beautiful country and its gentle people before both were brutalized by the pariah generals, led by Senior Pariah Than Shwe, who have turned the country into their personal fiefdom.

When the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on the discredited military junta to free all political prisoners, including Nobel Peace Prize winner—and the country’s legitimate leader as overwhelmingly decreed by the people in the last free and democratic election ever held in that country—Aung San Suu Kyi, the Philippines joined Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore in abstaining.

Fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nations members Brunei, Laos, Malaysia and Vietnam voted against the resolution, while Cambodia absented itself.

We guess the Asean members did what they did on the customary—but badly flawed in relation to Myanmar—principle of not interfering in the internal affairs of a fellow member.

But the undeniable point is that Myanmar under the despicable junta is a huge embarrassment to Asean, and contributes nothing but grief to the organization—as the record will disgracefully show.

Time and again the junta has practically given a dirty finger to Asean (and the UN, for that matter) whenever it has attempted to bring it into line, or talk the generals into being part of the civilized world.

What is most surprising about the Philippine vote at the UN on this particular issue is the proven fact that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has been outspoken in her calls for Aung San Suu Kyi to be released and the country set on the road to freedom and democracy.

But whispers in the diplomatic circuit is that a senior government official has an uncomfortably cozy relationship with the uniformed clique in Yangon, and this might have had something to do with the Philippines not breaking ranks and standing up and being counted (to the cheers of a good part of the world, we can guarantee) on the sad and sorry state of Myanmar.

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