Arroyo rallies Asean leaders: Let’s free Suu Kyi now
DAVOS, SWITZERLAND — President Macapagal-Arroyo on Friday urged the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to make a difference in the region by working to bring about the release of the jailed Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
“We must work together to make the tough choices to make Asean real and Aung San Suu Kyi free,” the President said in a strongly worded message she delivered at the Asean session of the World Economic Forum here.
The President said the regional grouping would attain a “level of democratization” on the issue of human rights “if we are to work collaboratively for the common good.”
“We must see political reform. We must see Aung San Suu Kyi released and now,” she told Asean leaders and dignitaries during the high-level session called “The Emerging Asian Community: Role of Asean.”
She warned that the Philippine Senate would not ratify the Asean Charter unless the legislators saw “real political reform” take place in Burma (Myanmar).
The charter, signed during the November 2007 Asean Leaders’ Summit in Singapore, seeks to create a human rights body in the region.
Policy of noninterference
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, however, stressed that the 10-member Asean must always abide by its policy of “noninterference.”
“It’s important to respect the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of member countries. [That’s why there’s] a problem on how to deal with the Myanmar issue,” he said.
Also present at the session were Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Asean Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan, officials from other Asean member-countries, and Stephen Green, chair of HSBC Holdings.
Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace laureate, has been held under house arrest by Burma’s ruling military junta since 2003.
Same, strong message
The junta, which took power in 1988, called elections in 1990, but refused to recognize the results when Suu Kyi’s party won a resounding victory.
President Arroyo delivered the same message when she addressed the Gender Parity Group minutes later.
“What should we do? We stand up and call for Aung San Suu Kyi’s freedom,” she said.
Ms Arroyo has consistently advocated that Asean take a more active role in introducing reforms in Burma. At the 13th Asean summit last November, she called on her fellow Asian leaders to work for the release of Suu Kyi.