Mar 26, 2011

Statement of support and solidarity to the people of Japan

Accordin to the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) and its allied networks in the region particularly the Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC)and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict- Southeast Asia (GPPAC-SEA) grieve the sudden loss of thousands of lives snuffed by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that had hit Japan in the early morning of March 11.

We express our heartfelt sympathies, support and solidarity to the people of Japan now suffering in the aftermath of these natural disasters and who are now reeling from its aftermath including the recent nuclear crisis.

We are gravely concerned that a potential man-made disaster from the nuclear meltdown in the battered nuclear reactor in Japan is imminent and should give pause for policy makers to junk the use of nuclear energy in addressing the basic requirements of modern living.
In these times of catastrophe, anxiety, and great depression , we believe that the world must rely on the indefatigable spirits of solidarity, sharing and friendship. Even a mighty Japan needs our generous hearts to rebuild their great nation. The people of Japan needs the international community to accompany them at this very crucial moment in their lives.

May the people of Japan continue to be strong and resilient and surmount all the challenges of this multiple crises as soon as possible. May our words of solidarity and prayers offer additional comfort and peace to the people of Japan.

Feb 23, 2011

Top US senator 'deeply concerned' for Suu Kyi safety

US Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, said Tuesday he had spoken by telephone with Myanmar democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi and was "deeply concerned" about her safety.
"I am deeply concerned about the junta's recent threats to her wellbeing and those of her National League for Democracy colleagues," McConnell, a fierce and frequent critic of Myanmar's military rulers, said in a statement.
"Such efforts at intimidation are an outrage and should be universally condemned by those around the world who value freedom and democracy. Along with my colleagues in the Senate, I will continue to closely monitor Suu Kyi's safety and the situation in Burma," said the senator.
State media in Myanmar warned in a recent commentary that Suu Kyi and her party will "meet their tragic ends" if they keep up their opposition to an end to Western sanctions.
The remarks follow a recent statement by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) that argued that the punitive measures were helping to pressure the authorities and had not affected the economy significantly.
It was the first explicit criticism of her by state media since her release in November after seven years of house arrest, days after an election that was denounced by democracy activists and the West.
The NLD reacted cautiously to the commentary, saying it had not received any official response from the authorities to its statement on sanctions.
Still, McConnell said Suu Kyi was "in good spirits and remains a vigorous champion for the people of Burma."

Myanmar Activist Suu Kyi Addresses Forum

Myanmar pro-democracy dissident Aung San Suu Kyi may not be ready to call for an end to Western sanctions against her troubled country just yet. But she made clear she thinks foreign investment will be key to lifting the Southeast Asian nation of 55 million people out of poverty — and that Western leaders should keep looking for ways to make more socially responsible investment there possible.
In a taped address (listen here) to the World Economic Forum, Ms. Suu Kyi said she “looks forward” to a day when her country will be open to more Western companies, though that day likely remains far off for now due to sanctions that block most U.S. and other Western firms from doing business there.
“We need investments in technology and infrastructure,” she said in the speech, recorded in Yangon, where she lives. “We also need to reform our legal system that we might be able to attract foreign direct investment and guarantee the rule of law.”
“I look forward to the day when there will be a political and social environment that is favorable to a wide range of investments in Burma,” she added, using the name for her country that is preferred by some Western governments, including the U.S. “We are certainly in need of innovation and diversification if our country is to fulfill the aspirations of its people and catch up with the rest of the world.”
The 65-year-old Nobel laureate has repeatedly signaled her intent to review the merits of economic sanctions against Myanmar since its military junta released her from seven years of house arrest in November. People familiar with Ms. Suu Kyi’s thinking say she is concerned that sanctions may be harming some of the country’s population by deterring necessary investments in health care and other services. But she remains reluctant to call for an end to the sanctions without significant concessions from the military regime, which swept Myanmar’s first national election in 20 years a few days before her release. Those concessions could include the release of 2,000 or more political prisoners, among other steps.
Ms. Suu Kyi added in her speech that her political organization, the National League for Democracy, has embarked on “an experimental microcredit scheme on a very small scale” to help bring more investment to poorer areas in the absence of more foreign capital. She didn’t elaborate further, though the very act of setting up such a program could be viewed as subversive in Myanmar, since the government officially disbanded the NLD last year. The group has continued to meet in defiance of state orders and has indicated it intends to keep operating as a social welfare organization.
The address underscored how technology is helping Ms. Suu Kyi reach a wider audience than in past years, which could help amplify her influence. When she was awarded the Nobel prize in the early 1990s, for instance, one of her sons had to accept the award on her behalf. Now, advances in technology have made it easier for her to speak more directly to her followers and world leaders. She recently was allowed Internet access in Yangon and has said she is interested in tweeting regularly.
Ms. Suu Kyi has declined opportunities to travel outside of Myanmar out of fears that the Myanmar government would not allow her to return home afterward.
In keeping with past public statements, she stopped short of direct, harsh criticism of Myanmar’s regime, which is accused of widespread human-rights violations since it took power in 1962. Some analysts and people familiar with her thinking have said they believe she is hoping to appear conciliatory so that the country’s newly elected government — including a parliament expected to convene as early as Jan. 31 — will be more willing to negotiate with her in her bid to bring about democratic reforms, though so far the government has given no indication it intends to hold talks with her.
She may also be afraid the government will put her back under house arrest if she is too openly critical of the regime, these people say.
Still, Ms. Suu Kyi made clear that she believes major political changes must occur in Myanmar if it is to catch up with the rest of the emerging world. “Despite an abundance of natural resources, Burma’s development has lagged far behind its neighbours,” she said. “Our government annually spends about 40% of our GDP on the military and barely 2% on health and education combined.”
She closed her brief speech by calling on “all those present at this gathering to use their particular opportunities and skills as far as possible to promote national reconciliation, genuine democratization, human development and economic growth in Burma.”

Jan 10, 2011

Indonesia puts the spotlight on human rights as ASEAN Chair

Jakarta – In its role chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year, Indonesia says it will make human rights its top priority.
At a news event Friday, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said his country hopes that during 2011, the ASEAN human rights commission will be more effective in fulfilling its mandate to demonstrate the organization’s commitment to respect the basic rights of human beings.
Putting the spotlight on human rights in ASEAN is major change from the past, says Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an analyst with the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.
ASEAN has been successful on issues such as promoting free trade and regional security matters, he says. But addressing contentious issues like human rights may be seen by some as a violation of ASEAN’s principle of not interfering in the internal affairs of it members.
“Members are happy to talk about it as long as it does not affect certain interests of their own countries,” Chachavalpongpun said. “But when it comes to tough issues like democracy and human rights we have to admit that not all countries in ASEAN are democratic.”
Among the 10 ASEAN states, Laos and Vietnam are one-party governments, led by the Communist Party. And human rights groups consider Burma’s military government among the world’s most repressive.
Last year’s election in Burma, also know as Myanmar, brought the issue of human rights within ASEAN to the forefront. Critics of the government say it stage-managed the vote to ensure the military remains in power.
Human rights organizations criticized ASEAN for not confronting Burma about the abuses there.
If Indonesia wants ASEAN to get serious about human rights, Chachavalpongpun says, it needs to abolish its principle of non-interference.
“I also think that maybe it is time for ASEAN to talk about some sort of punishment, maybe not to the point of expulsion [of member states]. There has to be some sort of compliance and what kind of punishment to be caused to certain members in the case that that member obviously do not comply,” Chachavalpongpun said.
Natalegawa says the situation in Burma last year did contribute to his country’s commitment to emphasize human rights in ASEAN. But he stopped short of recommending specific actions and said the situation there has improved since the election.
He noted, for instance, that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was freed from detention after the vote.
“Of course, over the past several weeks there have been important developments in Myanmar. The elections are notable,” Natalegawa said. “But on top of that we have had the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. So all these two important developments must be digested, must be absorbed, for ASEAN to be able to think ahead. How we can insure the issue of Myanmar or development in Myanmar can have a sense of closure in 2011.”
Rather than punish offenders, Natalegawa says Indonesia intends to use quiet diplomacy and consensus building to persuade ASEAN members to respect human rights.

Jan 9, 2011

Inter Press Service via Nepali Times: The Lady speaks – Mon Mon Myat with Aung San Suu Kyi

Burmese pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi talks with Mon Mon Myat of the Mekong series/IPS Asia-Pacific
Six weeks after her release from house arrest, Burmese pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi talks about the prospects and difficulties of bringing about political change in Burma with Mon Mon Myat of the Mekong series/IPS Asia-Pacific.
Mon Mon Myat: Is the major force for democratic change inside the country, or is it international pressure?
Aung San Suu Kyi: I think force from inside is more important, but it doesn’t mean international actions are not important. I think there are more responsibilities for the inside force.
What is ASEAN’s role in pushing Burma for change?
The role of ASEAN might be important. In South Africa, all African neighbours supported the African people. That is why their movement developed quickly and effectively. In the Burma situation, it is not the same. We have faced difficulties in making progress with the movement. I think the support of regional governments and their pragmatic assistance are vital for us.
Many have said that political and economic ties with neighbouring countries cannot be excluded. Likewise, economic sanctions imposed by western countries created stronger economic ties between Burma and its neighbours. How can China or India help Burma?
They can do it if they really want to help us, but we can’t force them to do it. We need to make it happen. At the same time, we need to be friends with the whole world as we are related. What I think is that our giant neighbours like India and China respect stability in our country. They think that only a military government can sustain stability. We have to try to change their view. We need to make them understand that a democratic government elected by the people can become the government, which can also guarantee the country’s stability.
What is your opinion on development projects such as hydropower projects, gas pipeline projects or Asian highway trade route projects?
We don’t have any objection if those projects can develop the country or the region, but the government that rules this country has the responsibility to make it advantageous for the country. Some say that the Burmese people have not benefitted from foreign investment. To avoid this, the main responsibility remains with the government. If there is transparency, people will know what the advantages and disadvantages are, and they can make a decision. In some cases, we didn’t know how things happened, how agreements were made between countries, what major things were included in the agreements. I think people should be informed about those things. It is not only because of our belief in democracy; there would also be fewer mistakes if people knew things. International aid agencies have been providing humanitarian aid to Burma. There are also some civic groups that believe that if more people could be involved in community development work, this could initiate good governance without a change in government.
Is there any prospect that good governance can be practiced without a change in the government?
Let me compare this with the media situation. There is not much media freedom in Burma now but media space is getting wider to a certain extent as there are more journals and magazines. It is similar with the civic groups. As there are more civic groups now, some progress can be made to a certain extent in practicing transparency and accountability among those groups. Those groups have to try to make it happen. If journals and magazines only work or write following the guidelines (set by the censor board), there will be no progress but if they are trying to do better and develop media freedom, there will be more progress gradually. If they do nothing, then there will be no progress.
What would be your message to the international community, including the UN and aid agencies, and those who are ready to welcome the so-called new government?
Actually, it is no wonder that the international community and governments acknowledge the new government rather than welcome. They have acknowledged the military government as the de facto government. So there is no difference.
It is true that people in the country don’t think it is a change of government but in the outside world, they are preparing to repatriate Burmese refugees from the Thai-Burma border. How long do refugees and exiled political groups need to wait to return home?
I can’t say, as I’m not an astrologer. I want to do it as soon as possible. I don’t feel comfortable that our people are living in insecurity on foreign soil. It is a desire for those people to return home as soon as possible but the desire should not end as a wish. As I always say, do not just hope but work for it.
What do you want to say to those who doubt your non-violent revolution?
I think there are misunderstandings about the non-violent way. Some might think that non-violence means not doing anything and accepting whatever suppression (comes). It doesn’t mean that. Non-violence is a basic principle. Based on that principle, there are different ways. As I have often been asked this question, I have often answered using Gandhi ji’s saying:
“Non-violence requires more courage, more determination and it is harder than using a violent way.” Although it is harder, it can go further.
If we use the violent way, we might reach our goal quickly but there will be many wounds among the people and for the country. It will take a long time to cure those wounds. But if we use a non-violent way, it will take time to reach our goal but the country’s rehabilitation won’t take a long time. If we use the wrong way, we may miss our goal. When leaders of independent movements have become the government, they have often suppressed people more than colonial governments.
What message would you want to deliver to the countries in the region?
What I want to say to the countries in the region is that if Burma has stability, development and union, it will benefit the whole region. So we are the forces who are trying to have stability, development and unity in the country. Don’t consider us a stranger or an enemy. I would like to request them to please be in touch with us, work together with us and support us to build up our country.