The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) released a press statement in Bali dated  November  29 calling on the President Thein Sein government to carry out its obligations to the democratization  of the country and improve its human rights standards ahead of taking the ASEAN Chair in 2014.

AIPMC welcomed Burma’s recent tentative advances towards political reform. However, it suggested that those changes should turn into substantial and irreversible progress. The caucus also exposed its expectation that in preparation for its 2014 ASEAN Chairmanship, Burma could make further progress with ASEAN’s support domestically.

“Myanmar must be ready to assume the heavy responsibilities that come with being chair of ASEAN,” said Dr Lim Wee Kiak, AIPMC Vice-President and Singapore Member of Parliament. “The chair is also ASEAN’s external face to the world and helps to maintain ASEAN’s international credibility. The success of Myanmar’s chairmanship is important not only to Myanmar and her people but to ASEAN and all of us as well.”

In its press release, AIPMC calls on ASEAN and related bodies to make use of their mandatory commitment ensuring Burma (Myanmar) meets basic human rights standards delineated in the ASEAN Charter and the international law. ASEAN must continually monitor the reform development in Burma that will deliver true democratization, justice and an end to human rights abuses, the statement says.

During its annual Steering Committee Meeting in Bali, AIPMC decided to visit Burma in early 2012 where AIPMC member MPs from across the region hope to meet with government and non-government actors alike.

Eva Kusuma Sundari, AIPMC President and Indonesian Member of Parliament, said, “This is a great opportunity for us to engage with people from across the spectrum in Myanmar that are working towards democratization and improving the extremely desperate human rights situation there.”

“Myanmar and its people have a huge task ahead of them and we all hope for a brighter future. AIPMC, ASEAN, its people and its governments must all take an active interest in a freer, fairer and more open Myanmar, not only for the people of Myanmar but for all of us, as a regional community,” she added.

AIPMC representatives, including AIPMC Vice-President Kraisak Choonhavan and AIPMC member and Malaysian MP Yusmadi Yusoff also met today in Bali with Homayoun Alizadeh, regional representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for South-East Asia. They discussed ongoing developments in Burma and share information on OHCHR’s current human rights capacity building programs for establishing structures for the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.

Alizadeh supported AIPMC’s plan to meet with government and civil society actors in Burma, stressing that a new rising generation of government officials offered hope for genuine change in the future.

“The openness, dedication and commitment and eagerness of this young generation of government officials needs to be recognized. This is the generation that will have a major role to play for the democratization process of the country,” said Alizadeh adding that the government should give more space to civil society to be a part of this changing process.

AIPMC spotlighted its hopes that international and regional human rights bodies, such as the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and OHCHR, have to play a key role in assisting Burma on its path toward reform over the coming years. The caucus also urged all ASEAN states to put greater importance on human rights and exploit the progress achieved under the Indonesian Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2011.

AIPMC also drew OHCHR’s attention to specific human rights concerns in Burma counting issues linked to business and economic development projects funded by overseas investment.  Besides, it also suggests focusing on substantive obstacles to national reconciliation and peace talks between the government, political opposition and armed ethnic groups.

The press release concluded: “Ongoing conflicts between the military and armed ethnic groups and the limited progress of peace talks remain a key concern. Burma must take concrete and genuine steps toward entering into upfront and inclusive peace talks with armed ethnic groups as a prerequisite for genuine democratic progress.”