|Act Now! ASEAN|
KUALA LUMPUR 27 September, 2007: Members of the CARAM Asia Network salute the courageous act of thousands of Burma’s citizens and stand in solidarity in their call to end political oppression. We urge ASEAN heads of States to continue to put pressure on Burma’s military regime to allow its citizens the right to assemble and show their dissent peacefully.
The socio-economic condition has worsened in the past 40 years under Burma’s military regime and has resulted in 90% of the population living near or below the poverty line. Militarisation continues to devour 40% of the nation’s annual budget and this is at the expense of necessary development in particular social and health services. There is widening divide between the elite military leaders and the poor citizens who lead daily struggle to survive. Thousands of citizens have fled to neighbouring countries to escape dire economic conditions, forced labour and political, social and cultural oppressions. Seeking refuge abroad, they are then vulnerable to conditions of exploitation with little support from host countries. The continued oppression of the military government will further induce such forms of forced migration.
The present ruler of Burma is an illegitimate military regime. The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) seized power in 1992, after a nationwide election in which the National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory. Since then, the regime has denied opposition groups political rights and imprisoned thousands of political activists. It is long overdue for the SPDC to return the power to the people and the party that the people have elected.
While we are encouraged by Malaysia’s response that Burma’s military should take steps towards national reconciliation, we are alarmed by false assertions that a peaceful pro-democracy protest led by monks, nuns, women, men and even children could create turmoil and affect neighbouring Southeast Asian nations. It is the right of all citizens, in Burma and in all ASEAN countries to express dissent through peaceful public marches and rallies. Recently, ASEAN took positive steps in promoting human rights through a charter and instrument. Failing to take action, ASEAN would risk losing its credibility as an effective block committed to promoting human rights.
We call for:
1. An immediate halt to intimidation, threats and killing of those brave enough to protest.
2. The military government to immediately release all political prisoners including detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi who was moved to the notorious Insein prison from her Rangoon lakeside home at University Avenue on 25 September.
3. ASEAN countries to relinquish its "non-interference" position in light of worsening human rights situation and in the spirits of the ASEAN Charter that carries a human rights agenda. ASEAN member states should extend its concern not only for the safety of its own nationals but also for the entire ASEAN community with the inclusion of the people of Burma in the spirit the ASEAN Charter which inspires for one community by the year of 2020.
In view of the current political crisis, CARAM Asia urges ASEAN governments to show leadership in the region by engaging with Burma as a matter of urgency.
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