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SBY’s “ASEAN” tour – bilateral deals and Myanmar dilemma?

Updated On: Mar 03, 2006

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is currently making the last stop for his tour of three ASEAN member countries, BruneiCambodia and Myanmar.

In Brunei, President Yudhoyono received the highest honorary star from the Sultan. At the state banquet hosted by Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, President Yudhoyono called for both countries to “continue our cooperation in the context of Islamic botherhood” and to show the international community that Islam is a religion of blessing for all. 

During his trip, he asked Bruneito purchase another 3 CN-235 aircraft (which was produced by Indonesian company PT Dirgantara Indonesia) so as to address the imbalance of the bilateral trade. Indonesia exported only US$25 million from Bruneibut imported US$887 million from Bruneiin 2004. These imports were primarily oil and gas. He added that “trade between the two countries needs to be re-arranged to make it balanced.” 

President Yudhoyono also met with Bruneian businessmen and urged them to increase their investment in Indonesia especially in sectors such as electricity, toll road construction, gas pipeline and clear water. He asked for a follow-up meeting either at the ministerial or at the private sector level to realise investment plans.

He arrived in Phnom Penhon Tuesday (28 February) and met with Senate Chief Chea Sim, Parliament Speaker Norodom Ranaridh and Prime Minister Hun Sen, and also paid a courtesy call to King Norodom Sihamoni.

He tasked his State Minister for Culture and Tourism, Jero Watjik to follow up on the agreement reached to cooperate bilaterally with Cambodiaon promoting tourism through ways such as having a package of tours to Borobudurand Angkor Wat. Cambodiain returned was hoping for a reduction of its trade deficit withIndonesia.

The highlight of the trip, for the international press that is, was President Yudhoyono’s trip to Myanmar.  President Yudhoyono met with the Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council Senior General Than Shwe and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Establishment of a Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation on 1 March 2006.

Although Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar is officially designated by ASEAN to make a trip to Myanmarto monitor the progress of the democratic process, President Yudhoyono’s comments to his host may be taken seriously given Indonesia’s traditional role as the leader of ASEAN. 

Antara reported Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda saying that “We understand the situation they are facing so if they wish we have a lot to share with them.” Hassan pointed out that this was because Indonesia itself experienced a difficult situation during its transition from an authoritarian to democratic government.

Both the chief of the National Committee of Indonesian Youths (KNPI) and a parliamentarian, Antarini Malik who are part of Yudhoyono’s entourage have also expressed hopes that Yudhoyono would mediate among the conflicting groups in Myanmar in order to push the process of democratisation. However, President Yudhoyono would not be meeting Aung San Suu Kyi, and whether his trip would also help pave the way for a more productive visit by Syed Hamid Albar in gettingMyanmar on its reform path is unclear.

Sources:

Democracy not the issue as Indonesian Leader Visits Burma, Irrawaddy1 March 2006

Yudhoyono Arrives in Myanmar amid pressure for reforms, Bangkok Post, 2 March 2006

Senior General Than Shwe meets Indonesian President Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, New Light of Myanmar, 2 March 2006

Indonesian Prez in Myanmarto Press for Democracy, Reuters, 1 March 2006

Indonesian President Arrives in Myanmar, Antara, 1 March 2006

IndonesiaCambodiato Develop Cooperation in Tourism, Antara, 1 March 2006

President Yudhoyono in Cambodia, Antara, 28 February 2006

Yudhoyono hopes RI and Bruneito be model of moderate Islam, Antara, 27 February 2006

President Yudhoyono to receive highest title from Sultan of Brunei, Antara, 27 Februrary 2006

Indonesian President calls for balance in trade with Brunei, Antara, 28 February 2006

Yudhoyono courts Brunei investors, eyes stronger trade relations, Jakarta Post, 2 March 2006