Asian Perspectives on Policy Toward Burma/Myanmar
QUEZON CITY, PHILIPPINES, April 6, 2010 - With the
ongoing detention of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, national elections
scheduled for 2010, and continued reports of human rights violations,
Burma/Myanmar remains in a state of political turmoil. As the Obama
administration leans toward a more flexible foreign policy of
engagement, a new Asia Society Task Force report recommends possible
policy initiatives that take Asian perspectives on Burma/Myanmar into account.
Asia Society Philippines trustee and member of the Asia Society Burma/Myanmar Task Force
Advisory Group Dr. Carolina Hernandez presented the report, entitled Current
Realities and Future Possibilities in Burma/Myanmar: Perspectives from
Asia to a select group of diplomats, civil society
representatives, and members of the academe at the University of the
Philippines' Bahay Kalinaw.
Hernandez focused on issues raised at a roundtable convened by her
organization, the independent think tank Institute for Strategic and Democratic
Studies, for the Philippine report. The report noted a consensus among
government, academe, and civil society concern for the release of Suu Kyi, with
varying degrees of interest in other issues such as diplomatic relations and
other ASEAN members, the Philippines has untroubled bilateral relations with
Burma/Myanmar. In fact, the roundtable discussion shows that government views
RP-Burma/Myanmar relations as generally "okay"; the Philippines have some business
investments in Burma/Myanmar without interference from the government. That said,
the country's interests and official policy in relation to Burma/Myanmar are
undefined, though the government shares the concerns of the ASEAN regarding
Burma/Myanmar's political situation and its impact on the country's neighbors.
As such, ASEAN should take the lead in championing diplomatic efforts and
solutions towards securing democracy in Burma/Myanmar.
government, however, is ambivalent about the need for Suu Kyi to participate in
the upcoming elections—a position that local civil society disputes.
Philippine civil society representatives also support exerting political
pressure and sanctions on the regime, and developing the country's civil
society movement. On the other hand, members of the academe take the middle
ground, but question the capability of the ASEAN, given the weak legal
authority of the charter.
An open forum immediately
followed the presentation, and discussion turned toward creative strategies
for engaging Burma/Myanmar nationals, and finding a common definition of
democracy for all modern societies. Representatives of the Free Burma
Movement/Initiatives for International Dialogue also shared the movement's conditions
for democratic conduct of the elections: 1) the release of Suu Kyi and other
political prisoners to enable their participation in the 2010 elections; 2) the
cessation of hostilities against ethnic minorities and political activists; and
3) an all-inclusive review of the 2008 Nargis Constitution.
Reported by Patricia Vega