Monday, May 9, 2011

Myanmar ‘must continue progress’ before taking lead

Dina Indrasafitri and Sri Wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Mon, 05/09/2011

Myanmar’s bid to chair ASEAN in 2014 remains open amid controversies surrounding  the country.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Sunday after closing of the 18th ASEAN Summit that  the leaders of ASEAN “do not object to the idea” of Myanmar assuming the  position.

“However, Myanmar must continue its democratization progress to avoid negative perceptions from other nations,” he said.

It recently held its first elections in 20 years and released political prisoner and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi. However, the UN question the fairness of the polls.

Myanmar was expected to chair ASEAN in 2005, but the plan was scuttled after the nation skipped the grouping’s summit in Vientiane, Laos, in 2004 following pressure from the international community on its slow progress on national reconciliation and human rights issues.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said the matter was discussed “quite thoroughly” at the summit. “Some member states conveyed their support openly, some nations, such as Indonesia, stated that the matter required certain processes,” he said.

As current chair of ASEAN, Indonesia was requested to conduct a visit to analyze Myanmar’s current development, Marty added.

Ade Padmo Sarwono, the Foreign Ministry’s director for ASEAN cooperation in politics and security, said the matter would be discussed more deeply at the ministerial level and could be on the agenda in November’s summit.

He said that to become chair, both infrastructure and political development were required.

Indonesia expects a “genuine democracy and reconciliation that  involves all parties in Myanmar,” Ade said.

Human rights activist Indah Suksmaningsih welcomed the idea, saying it could benefit the people of Myanmar. She said there existed a culture among ASEAN member states that they liked to dress themselves up when expecting honorable guests. Assuming that this is also true with Myanmar, she said, the country will have a lot of its infrastructure built ahead of hosting the summit.

“This could benefit the people,” Indah, the director of the Institute for Global Justice, said.

She expressed hope that Myanmar would not just mend and improve its physical infrastructure, but also its record on human rights and allow engagement of society in the policy-making process.