Monday, August 17, 2009

Indonesia withdraws support to Burmese opposition meet

by Mungpi
Thursday, 13 August 2009 22:34

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Burmese military junta’s objection to a conference by opposition leaders in exile and efforts at stopping a key meeting on a ‘National Reconciliation Proposal’ in Jakarta is an indication that the regime is apprehensive and feels threatened, opposition members said.

Leaders of one of the largest Burmese opposition alliances on Wednesday and Thursday were compelled to shift their meeting venue and conduct a low profile meeting after Indonesian authorities objected and ordered surveillance.

“As far as we understand, the Burmese Embassy in Jakarta had written a letter to the Indonesia Foreign Ministry tabling their protest at the opposition groups in exile holding a meeting in their country,” Maj. Hkun Okkar, an ethnic Pa-O delegate coming from Jakarta after attending the conference told Mizzima.

Several city policemen were deployed near the meeting venue in Jakarta and “at least four to five Indonesian intelligence officers kept following us, wherever we went,” Hkun Okkar said.

An Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah was quoted as saying by the AP that Burma is a legal State recognised by Indonesia and will not allow the Burmese government-in-exile to hold a conference in its country.

“We will not allow a group claiming to be a government-in-exile from whatever country to hold their activities in Indonesia,” Faizasyah was quoted as saying.

Hkun Okkar, who is a Major in the Pa-O Liberation Organisation (PLO), an ethnic armed group fighting against the Burmese junta for self-determination, said, the protest by the Burmese Embassy to Indonesia proves that the junta fears any opposition movement that might threaten their reign.

“It is clearly visible that the junta is afraid of us gaining the support of the international and regional community,” he said.

“But we are here [Jakarta] for a discussion for reconciliation in our country. We are not here to discuss toppling them but we are discussing how to embrace and reconcile our nation,” he added.

Leaders of the ‘Seven Alliance’, a group that combines various Burmese and ethnic organizations, despite restrictions, held the meeting and approved the “Proposal for National Reconciliation” for Burma, an alternative proposal to the Burmese junta’s transitional plans.

The proposal has three major parts – trust building, economic reforms, and the role of the military – and assures that while maintaining national unity, transition can be achieved through dialogue.

Recognising the fact that transition in Burma cannot be achieved overnight, the proposal states that it needs to kick-start it and the best way to do so is to begin it by releasing political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi, who on Tuesday was given a 18-month suspended sentence.

“If we are to move forward, we need to start building trust among each other and it should start by the government releasing political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi,” Hkun Okkar, who is heading the delegation of the National Council of the Union of Burma, an umbrella group made up of pro-democracy organisations and ethnic nationalities, said.

The NCUB along with the Burmese government in exile, the NCGUB, Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC), Women’s League of Burma (WLB), Students and Youth Congress of Burma (SYCB), Nationalities Youth Forum (NYF) and Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB) form the Seven Alliance.

Prior to the Jakarta conference, Hkun Okkar said, the group had handed a copy of their proposal to the office of Ibrahim Gambari, United Nations special envoy to Burma.

According to the group, the proposal had been endorsed by all Burmese opposition groups and it is the first document on which the fractious Burmese opposition agreed on.

Hkun Okkar said, despite doubts that the junta will refuse to accept the proposal, as they have always done in the past, their next step will be to explain to the international community their plan, which all the opposition groups have agreed to.

“There are fears that if the military is removed from Burmese politics, there would be Balkanisation. But this proposal is proof that ethnic groups are interested in forming a federal union and do not seek cessation,” Hkun Okkar said.

While the group will continue working to push for a change within the country, Hkun Okkar said, international pressures are supportive and could bring the junta to the negotiating table.

“If the international community today says, ‘no we will not endorse the 2010 election unless you review the constitution’ then I am sure the junta has nowhere else to go,” he added.

But with the Jakarta meeting, attended by 40 to 50 Burmese opposition leaders along with their supporters including parliamentarians from Southeast Asian nations, being restricted, even Indonesia, which is the largest democracy in Southeast Asia, seems to be backing off.

And the hope of the international community, despite its rhetorical condemnations, acting against the military rulers seems to be diminishing.

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