Speech by Lim Kit Siang in the 2011 budget debate during the Foreign Ministry committee stage in Parliament on Monday, 22nd November 2010:
Malaysia and ASEAN should support Aung San Suu Kyi’s call for a second multi-ethnic Panglong Conference to create a federal democracy in Burma to foster democratization and national reconciliation
Malaysia should play a leading active role in ASEAN to promote peace, democratization and national reconciliation in Myanmar as Malaysia, under the then Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, was responsible for Myanmar’s entry into ASEAN in 1997 despite ASEAN reservations and international criticisms on the ground that a policy of “constructive engagement” approach would pave the way for democratization and national reconciliation in Myanmar and security and stability in the region.
Thirteen years have elapsed but none of these objectives had been achieved.
Nine days ago, on 13th November, 2010, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi was released after spending 15 of 21 years in detention under the Myanmese military junta, a release which was long overdue as the series of incarceration against the Nobel Peace Prize Laureatte should not have occurred in the first place.
With over 2,200 political prisoners still in detention in Burma, is Suu Kyi’s release a sign that the Myanmese military junta is ready seriously to address the challenges of democratization and national reconciliation in Burma?
After her release, Suu Kyi called for a second multi-ethnic Panglong Conference that is appropriate to 21st century concerns to create a federal system based on equality and democracy.
Suu Kyi’s father general Aung San who then represented the Burmese government reached an agreement with ethnic leaders from the Shan, Kachin, Chin and Mon on 12th February 1947, to accept full autonomy in internal administration for the ethnic-controlled frontier areas after independence from Britain.
The agreement, which was an outcome of the conference at Panglong, was never enforced due to the assassination of national hero Aung San in July 1947, just months before independence. However, many ethnic groups have continued to deem the Panglong Agreement as their bible of struggle for self-rule in Burma.
Malaysia and ASEAN should come forward to support Suu Kyi’s call for a second multi-ethnic Panglong Conference to create a federal democracy in Burma as an important contribution towards achieving dialogue, democratization and national reconciliation in Burma.
Malaysia, ASEAN, the UN Security Council, General Assembly, Human Rights Council, the UN Secretary-General, the European Union, the United States and even China have been calling for tripartite dialogues in Burma among the military junta, the pro-democracy activists and the ethnic nationalities down the years and even decades, but they have not borne any fruit.
A second multi-ethnic Panglong Conference involving the Myanmese military rulers will turn a new page for Burma.
Although Suu Kyi has been released from detention, there has been increasing concerns not only whether she would be allowed to be fully active in legitimate political pursuits, but also about her personal safety.
There was an explosion in Mandalay with two injured following reports that Suu Kyi is planning to visit Burma’s second largest-city after her release.
Malaysia and ASEAN must send clear and unmistakable concerns to impress on the Myanmese military junta their responsibility not only to respect Suu Kyi’s freedom of speech, association and movement, but to ensure her personal safety – and that there would be no repetition of the Depayin Incident in May 2003 where about 100 of her supporters were killed and she herself was nearly assassinated when ambushed by junta-backed elements.
As part of the leading active role in ASEAN to ensure that Myanmar does not continue to undermine ASEAN’s good name and credibility, Malaysia should take initiatives on the following issues:
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timor