Friday, May 6, 2011

Noynoy should lead opposition to Myanmar's Asean bid: HRW

MANILA, Philippines -- President Benigno S. Aquino III should take the lead in opposing Myanmar's wish to chair the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in 2014 until the military junta "takes genuine steps toward improving human rights," Human Rights Watch said Friday.

Among these steps, the New York-based group said in a statement, is the release of more than 2,000 political prisoners.

Aquino, the son of democracy icons Corazon and Ninoy, has in the past called for the release of political prisoners in Myanmar. Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch's deputy director for Asia, explained that Manila was among the few Asean countries that did not equate the rigged elections in Myanmar in November with genuine democratic reforms.
“President Benigno Aquino III should spearhead an Asean strategy for bringing about real human rights improvements in Burma,” Pearson said.

Aquino and Myanmar's president Thein Sein are scheduled to attend the Asean summit over the weekend in Jakarta.

Human Rights Watch said Myanmar "has failed to address concerns repeatedly raised by Asean leaders in past summits." It held what the group called a "sham election," continues to detain political activists and has imposed "severe limits on basic freedoms of expression, association, and assembly."

“Rewarding Burma with Asean’s chairmanship after it staged sham elections and still holds 2,000 political prisoners would be an embarrassment for the region,” Pearson said, using Myanmar's old name. “Asean leaders need to decide if they will let Burma demote Asean to the laughingstock of intergovernmental forums.”

Pearson said Asean should set "clear benchmarks for Burma to earn the right to be chair."