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OPINI
ASEAN must enforce charter for Myanmar

Sumber: THEJAKARTAPOST.COM | Tgl terbit: Sabtu, 15 Maret 2008

We support the United Nations' initiatives to improve the current situation in Burma (Myanmar) with regard to human rights issues. However, the UN's special envoy to Burma Ibrahim Gambari has not achieved maximum results.

What can ASEAN do to help smooth the process?

On Tuesday, March 4, Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda spoke before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Hassan made it clear the council should increase cooperation and dialogue with Burma in an effort to develop and protect human rights.

As a member of the human rights community in Indonesia, we fully support that statement, although we are sorry that the special rapporteur in Burma, Paolo Sergio Pinheiro, was not allowed to make a follow-up visit to Burma after December 2007. However, we want Indonesia, along with other ASEAN countries, to take a firm stance and strengthen their policies in order to change the situation in Burma.

We know ASEAN now has a charter to live together as one community. This is an important step toward the fundamental principle agreed to by ASEAN, that of "democracy and constitutional government". Inspired by Latin America, Africa and Europe, ASEAN countries agreed to establish a human rights body.

Regardless of their weaknesses, the charter and the human rights body are a step forward. It shows ASEAN is moving away from a stance of non-interference, long considered an obstacle in our efforts to support freedom, human rights and democracy in Burma.

The UN, civil society groups and human rights NGOs around the region and the world have all tried to achieve this aim. The big question is: how to lead the country out of its political crisis?

One thing is certain, we should not stop trying. We must work together to build a new Burma, a country without a military dictatorship.

We are very sorry to see that Burma is still one of the most unstable countries in Southeast Asia. The global community certainly needs to pay very close attention, both on an international and regional level.

The military junta in Burma has a very bad record when it comes to political violence. The brutal response to the peaceful demonstrations on Sept. 23, last year, was only the most recent example.

In Indonesia, many human rights NGOs condemned this terrible repression. We opposed the violent response to monks and civilians who protested peacefully. We fully supported the secretary general of the UN, Ban Ki Moon, as he requested the foreign affairs ministers of China, India and Singapore take concrete steps to promote a peaceful dialogue in Burma.

All the monks and protesters should be released and receive protection from the state, which calls itself the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

What we have seen in Burma also happened in Indonesia. During Soeharto's authoritarian regime human rights violations were common. We urge Burma to learn from the lessons of the transitional process in Indonesia, which began with the fall of Soeharto -- and constitutional reform, legal reform and security reform continues to this day.

In the near future, we hope Burma enters a new chapter of its history. In the presence of international observers ensuring a fair and free referendum is held, a new constitution should be implemented after May 2008 and a general election held in 2010.

However, it is a pity the constitutional drafting process has not yet included consultations with the people of Burma. This is reflected by the fact the draft will disqualify the opposition from being involved in the general election, including its leader Aung San Suu Kyi. In reality, Suu Kyi is still under detention. The draft constitution also gives the armed forces 25 percent of the seats in parliament, to be appointed by the military commander.

The referendum could be the start of a new chapter for Burma and play a significant role in constructing a democratic government and opening dialogue.

It is very important for ASEAN to make sure the military junta involves Burmese civil society in drafting the constitution. The people's endorsement is crucial to legitimize ASEAN's aim to build democracy and constitutional governments in our respective countries.

The writer is the executive director of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras).



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