Burma and ASEAN
How the Burma issue will be addressed will show how serious ASEAN wants to be as a responsible and influential regional bloc like the EU. So far, ASEAN wants to downplay the Burma embarrassment. The ASEAN Charter, the pride of the coming ASEAN Summit, will be overshadowed by the Burmese problem. Singapore, as ASEAN Chair, is probably irritated that the world would be watching how Burma is admonished rather than applauding the ASEAN Charter.
Myanmar woes won’t trip up Asean Charter: FM Yeo
DESPITE the troubles in Myanmar, Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo does not foresee any obstacles to the signing of the landmark Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) Charter here this month.
“It will have great implication for the future and for our common destiny and we are looking forward to it,” said Mr Yeo yesterday. Its signing next week, he added, would be a “time for celebration”.
Mr Yeo also described the Asean People’s Charter — floated by regional civil society groups last week as a symbolic charter upholding human rights principles — as an “attractive idea”.
“I am quite sure that civil society in Asean will have an important role to play, but this (Asean People’s Charter) will not be in the nature of a legal agreement,” said the Minister.
He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a dinner for visiting Brunei ministers, led by the Sultanate’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Prince Mohamed Bolkiah.
Calling it a “good meeting of mind”, Mr Yeo said: “I’ve briefed him (Prince Mohamed) on my visit to China and Japan and our meetings with UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari and various things that are connected with the issue of Myanmar.”
Asked if he is confident that Mr Gambari, currently in Myanmar, can achieve “substantive results” — such as the freeing of more political prisoners — Mr Yeo replied: “Well, we have got to see.”
The Minister also hopes Mr Gambari will be given “full access” to meet certain people.
During his last visit, the United Nations representative was denied access to some opposition political leaders although he got to meet democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi of the National League of Democracy twice.
Said Mr Yeo: “It is very important that there should be progress before the leaders meet in Singapore later this month.”
Meanwhile, Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday responded to a letter submitted by 88 Generation Students — a movement comprising leaders involved in the 1988 Myanmar uprising — urging Singapore to take tougher action against Myanmar.
In the reply, Mr Chi Chiew Sum, Special Assistant to Minister Yeo, wrote: “Singapore is very concerned about the situation in Myanmar and how the developments there have affected the people of Myanmar . As Myanmar is part of the Asean family, the developments there will have broad ramifications for Asean and also the region.”
Throwing Singapore’s weight behind Mr Gambari’s mission to help Myanmar achieve peaceful national reconciliation, Mr Chi added: “The process will require genuine dialogue involving all the parties, including the military, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy. A stable Myanmar is important not only for the future of the people of Myanmar, but also for the region as a whole.”
The Foreign Ministry official also reiterated the Republic’s stand that “Singapore agrees that regime change will not solve the problem in Myanmar”.