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Dealing with Myanmar’s whims and fancies

Updated On: Jan 10, 2006

Myanmar has confounded ASEAN again by delaying the visit by ASEAN mission to be led by Malaysian Foreign Minister.  It is difficult for the organization to know how exactly to deal with it. Indonesia and Malaysia have already commented on its recent actions.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda described Myanmar as being “somewhat disruptive to the balance of ASEAN” in his annual foreign policy statement. However, he refrained from criticizing the regime and added that Myanmar seemed receptive to possible assistance on democracy from Indonesia. “We offered to share our expertise and experience during our transition period. There is an indication that Myanmar has a plan to invite the Indonesian leader or his special envoy toMyanmar. Hopefully the invitation will arrive in the near future.” He added that Indonesia asked “Myanmar to show measured democratic progress within the deadline and timeframe of the roadmap of democracy.”

However, this is all ambivalent as it comes simultaneously with Myanmar’s delay of an ASEAN mission, led by Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, to assess its democratic reforms. Foreign Minister U Nyan Win said “I don't think it will take place in January as we are very busy moving to Pyinmana.”  Nyan Win told reporters during a reception at a foreign embassy in Yangon.  The visit had been expected in January after the junta came under pressure from its neighbours during an ASEAN summit in December 2005. When asked whether the visit would take place in February, he said, “We have not fixed any date for the visit.”

The latest statement from Myanmar has drawn sharp criticism from the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC), an informal grouping of regional lawmakers calling for greater democracy in the country.  “This (Myanmar) is a rogue nation. They do not care what others think of it. The move to delay Syed Hamid's trip is a double slap in the face for the regional grouping,” Chairman Zaid Ibrahim said. He added that “ASEAN has to look at this issue, if it is worth to haveMyanmar in the grouping.”

The UN special representative to Myanmar, Razali Ismail, said that he had quit his post after being refused entry to the military-ruled country, where he is pushing for reforms, for nearly two years. “My contract lapsed after December 2005. It is clear they (the military junta) do not want me back.” He said, “I have not been allowed to visit the Myanmar leadership in Yangon in the past 22 months…so it is time for me to take an exit. Razali doubted that Aung San Suu Kyi would be released and reiterated the international view that ASEAN should take a tougher line against the regime. “ASEAN should talk more, persuade or even cajole the government.”

Sources:

Myanmarto ASEAN envoy: ‘We’re too busy to see you, (Straits Times, 8 January 2006)

* UN envoy to Myanmarquits after two-year entry ban (Reuters/ Jakarta Post, 8 January 2006)

* Myanmar delays ASEAN visit, cites move to new capital, (The Star, 7 January 2006)

* Indonesia calls on Myanmar to introduce democracy, (Jakarta Post, 7 January 2006)

Myanmar ‘disruptive’ (ASEAN, Jakarta Post, 7 January 2006)

* Myanmar’s foot-dragging hurting stability: Jakarta, (United News of India, 6 January 2006)