News / Asia

Australia and Thailand Pressure Burma on Rights Record

Activists from the Free Burma Coalition holding masks of Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi at a rally in front of the Burmese Embassy in Manila in November 2010.
Activists from the Free Burma Coalition holding masks of Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi at a rally in front of the Burmese Embassy in Manila in November 2010.

Australia and Thailand have called for Burma to raise its human rights record, including the release of all political prisoners, before taking up the chair of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations in 2014.

Earlier this month, Laos was reported to have agreed to “swap” with Burma the chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014. Laos will chair in 2012.

The call came during weekend talks between Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and his Thai counterpart Kasit Piromya in the Thai capital, Bangkok.

Burma had foregone its right to chair ASEAN in 2005 amid international pressure over its human rights record. Burma now points to political reforms since then, including general elections last year and the formation of a new parliament together with the release of opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, from house arrest last year.

But human rights groups argue the parliament is largely controlled by the military and military backed parties, while more than 2,000 political prisoners remain in jails throughout the country and attacks on ethnic communities continue.

The move by Burma to host ASEAN in 2014 is opening divisions within the organization.

Australia’s Rudd says Burma needs to make more progress before considering the ASEAN chairmanship.

“Our view as Australia is that we would want to see continued and sustained improvements in human rights and democracy in Burma. We in the past have welcomed the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, we have deep concerns about the continued detention of some 2,000 political prisoners.”

Rudd also pointed to issues such as the 110,000 Burmese living in refugee camps in western Thailand with ‘thousands’ more internally displaced in Burma due to fighting between ethnic groups and Burma’s army.

Indonesia Foreign Minister Marty Natelagawa, the current chairman of ASEAN, is due to visit Burma to assess its readiness to host the ASEAN meeting in 2014.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit says an assessment has to include progress by Burma, also known as Myanmar, since the elections and Burma’s obligation under the ASEAN charter which includes recognition of human rights. Kasit says there remain outstanding issues.

“Especially the release of all the remaining political prisoners, the general overall freedom or liberalization of the whole political process as well as the long awaited dialogue between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on behalf of the opposition with the newly installed government of Myanmar as part of the whole national reconciliation process and national building.”

Human rights groups welcomed the calls by Australia and Thailand for political reforms in Burma. Debbie Stothard is spokeswoman for the rights group Alternative ASEAN Network.

“Burma should not be allowed to chair ASEAN until it has engaged in genuine reform and that means release of all political prisoners and a cessation of war against all ethnic nationality communities.”

Stothard says if Burma took up the chair of ASEAN in 2014 without further reforms, key dialogue partner countries, that include Australia, Canada, the European Union and Japan as well as the United States, may boycott the meetings.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid