A communiqué issued at the end of the two-day ASEAN leaders’ summit in Jakarta said: “We considered the proposal of Myanmar (Burma) that it would host the ASEAN summits in 2014, in view of its firm commitment to the principles of ASEAN.”
It also emphasized that ASEAN leaders supported the “steady progress and political developments in Myanmar” after it held general elections and formed a new government in March, calling the ballot “successful.” But, ASEAN leaders overlook the true story about the 7-November election which unfairly allowed the junta-backed party to rig the votes.
The election, Burma’s first in 20 years, was severely criticized by the oppositions and the Western Democracies as undemocratic polls for not allowing watchdogs and media.
The Asian Network For Free Elections (ANFREL) released a statement dated 9 November calling attention to ballot counting procedures that made by the Union Election Commission (UEC). It said the counting process was not made transparent to the public and the media beginning with the first advance voting period.
Moreover, ethnic nationalities in Burma that fight for self-determination were prevented from participating in the election. More than 3,000 villages in ethnic nationality areas have also been excluded from the electoral exercise because of continuing armed conflict.
Thus, calling the ballot “successful” means ASEAN supports an undemocratic vote-rigging election in Myanmar (Burma).
Southeast Asian leaders have no objection to Burma or Myanmar’s request to chair the 10-member ASEAN bloc in 2014, as long as it continues making progress towards democracy, Indonesia’s president said on Sunday after the group’s latest summit.
“ASEAN leaders do not object in principle,” Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said at his closing news conference. “But Myanmar, which is a focus of world attention, is expected to continue progress on democracy so when it becomes chair it does not generate negative views.”
However, the Thein Sein government has been reinforcing its troops in several areas where ethnic armed groups that did not follow the border guard force (BGF) plan are based, according to ethnic sources. Armed reinforcements have been reported in southern Karen State and in central and southern Shan State in eastern Burma since early this year.
Sporadic armed clashes has been going on recently between the junta’s troops and armed ethnic groups such as the Karen National Union (KNU), the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) Brigade 5,  the Shan State Army–North (SSA-North) and Shan State Army-South (SSA-South).
So, Burma Army has been going on with war against the ethnic minorities who are defending their basic civil rights including self-determination. If ASEAN leaders consider offering the chair to Burma (Myanmar) in 2014, they should pressure Thein Sein government to stop the unjust war on the ethnic people. They ought to take facilitator role to stop the civil war in Burma. In this civil war, Burmese soldiers have been committing lots of crimes – lootings, rapes, burnt down villages, destroying the crops, killing innocent ethnic villagers, forced-labor and forced conscription.
Moreover, Thein Sein government still detains over 2,000 political prisoners including important ethnic leaders. To take the ASEAN chair, Burma must not keep political prisoners who really are committing no crime but expose their political beliefs.
In addition, Thein Sein government must allow ‘Freedom of Expression’ and ‘Free Press’. Burma is one of the most autocratic and covered up countries in the world, due to both its restrictive press laws and its practice of punishing journalists. In recent elections, the Burmese junta did not allow press freedom for both Burmese and international news media.
It was a significant hindrance to Burma becoming a free society. So, the analysts state that in the absence of media freedom Burma (Myanmar) should not act as ASEAN chair since there will not be accountability and transparency.
Reporters Without Borders released its annual press freedom report in October 2010, ranking Burma 174th out of 178 countries. On October 18, Burma announced that foreign journalists would not be granted access to Burma to cover the news on elections.
Looking at the fact on the ground in Burma, there is more belligerences in these days, more military attacks in the ethnic minority areas, more forced labors, more child soldiers, more political prisoners, more refugees, more restrictions toward media, more control on Internet users and civil societies.
So, ASEAN needs to be very cautious and to put more pressure on Burma until the fundamental benchmarks for chairmanship are carried out before 2014.