Thursday, November 17, 2011

Asean approves Burma chairmanship for 2014

Thursday, 17 November 2011 16:57 Christine

Bali (Mizzima) – Burmese presidential adviser Ko Ko Hlaing told reporters in Indonesia on Thursday that Asean leaders have named Burma the rotating Asean chair for 2014. There were no objections.

“Granting the Asean chairmanship to Burma is not only the government’s success but also all the Burmese citizens’ success,” said Ko Ko Hlaing.

The approval is a major accomplishment for Burma, which in the past year has installed a new parliamentary government, loosened some censorship laws and had two amnesties for prisoners, including political prisoners. In addition, it has made significant signs that it is encouraging the opposition group, the National League for Democracy, to participate in the up-coming by-election, which may be held in December.

Ko Ko Hlaing told reporters that Burma, as an Asean member, has a right to hold the rotating chairmanship and it has the capability to chair the Asean regional meeting in Naypyitaw, the capitol, in 2014.

Burma’s leading opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), saw the award in a positive light.

Nyan Win, a senior official in Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD, said, "Their decision is tantamount to encouraging the present Burmese government to step up the momentum for reforms.”

"I think that Burma's political activities will become more vibrant after assuming the chair and Burma will also become a quality member of Asean," he told Reuters news agency.

On Tuesday, Asean foreign ministers agreed to grant the chairmanship, and on Thursday, Asean leaders approved it.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa arrived in Burma in October to gather information from government officials, opposition political parties and others to decide whether he would support Burma’s chairmanship.

He said Indonesia’s own transformation from an authoritarian regime to democracy in a decade could offer lessons to Burma, one of the world’s most sanctioned nations because of its poor human rights record.

“I shall be keen to listen and to hear the voice of civil society, not least the voice of Aung San Suu Kyi… whether this can have a multiplier effect, a pull effect in speeding up the pace of change,” Natalegawa told the Associated Press.

Mizzima reported in July that the Burmese government had formed committees and constructed buildings, sports stadiums and undertaken other contingencies to assume the chairmanship.

The committee chairman is Foreign Affairs Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, and the committee comprises about 20 members including Union deputy ministers.

Asean officials had been put under pressure not to grant the chair to Burma because there are still political prisoners and widespread human rights violations in the country.

Burma’s turn to chair Asean came up in 2006, but it passed over the opportunity after widespread criticism over its human rights record. Originally, its turn would have been in 2016, but Laos agreed to swap places with Burma for the 2014 Asean chairmanship.

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