Yesterday a petition was presented to the Indonesian Foreign Minister urging their Government to oppose Burma (also known as Myanmar) taking up its turn to lead ASEAN, or boycott all ASEAN forums under Burma’s leadership unless there are immediate democratic reforms implemented by the Burmese military junta. The petition was signed by 35 of the 48 members of the Indonesian House of Representatives Commission 1 (similar to our Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee). I wrote two days ago about how lame the Australian government has been in putting pressure on the dictatorship in Burma, and they continue to be outstripped by the growing strength of the public statements made by Indonesian political leaders. Indeed, I would suggest that Indonesia needs stronger public Australian support on this.
Indonesia’s Foreign Minister, Hassan Wirayuda, has made clear his view that Burma should not take its turn leading ASEAN until it has made concrete reforms through a process that has to involve Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD). It is now 15 years since the Burmese military seized power in the face of a huge election victory by the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi has been kept in custody for most of that time. She is just reaching her 60th birthday and she and her people have had to wait far too long for freedom and justice.
I made the point before, but the fact that the Indonesians, as well as government leaders from other ASEAN countries, are so open in criticising Burma shows just how ludicrous Alexander Downer was in claiming that Australia couldn’t sign a Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with ASEAN because it would stop us criticising Burma. The sad fact is that the USA didn’t like us signing it, so we weren’t going to, a stance which is at odds with our Government’s rhetoric of engagement with out Asian neighbours and insistence that we don’ t think of ourselves as the Deputy Sheriff for the USA in our region.