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Indonesia’s role in resolving the Burma crisis is crucial

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The people’s uprising against the Indonesian military dictatorship in 1998 was a good lesson-learned for most Indonesian citizens. In Burma, a similar situation is unfolding as people rise against the military junta. We strongly urge the Indonesian government to be more proactive in its role as a member of the Security Council and ASEAN in order to address the SPDC’s defiance of democracy, bringing peace and stability in the region.

(Bangkok) Southeast Asian non-governmental organizations have expressed their grave concerns to the Indonesian government for its shortcoming in taking a more proactive role regarding the violence perpetrated by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) against the people of Burma for demonstrating peacefully.

On 27 September, Indonesia together with fellow ASEAN members admitted that the recent violence in Burma had a serious impact on the reputation and credibility of ASEAN and will immediately meet SPDC’s Senior General Than Shwe1. However as the only ASEAN member of the UN Security Council, Indonesia has failed to make official statements and implement actions consistent with the tone and content of ASEAN’s joint statement which – implies that Indonesia tolerates the Burmese military government’s brutality.

Since the Human Rights Council announced a Special Session on Burma to take place on 2-3 October, we strongly urge Indonesia to fully take part and support the adoption of an action-oriented resolution such as a fact-finding mission and the setting up of an independent monitoring team. The fact-finding mission mandate is to investigate recent gross human rights violations such as arbitrary detention, torture, disappearance and extrajudicial execution committed by the military in response to peaceful demonstrations.

An independent monitoring team should also be established with a mandate to assess the broader human rights situation covering civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in Burma. We urge Indonesia to use their experience in dealing with past human rights violations, especially those committed in 1998, to propose a strong resolution, and thus to fulfill its responsibility as a member of the Human Rights Council to protect the people of Burma from further violence and isolation.

Reflecting on Indonesia’s 1998 experience – a transition from military dictatorship to democratic governance, with the Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI) being transformed into a more professional defense force; not only raised Indonesia’s profile in the promotion of democracy and human rights in the region but also its role in international peacekeeping forces under the auspices of the United Nations in many regions.

Therefore, we, the undersigned non-governmental organizations urge Indonesia to take concrete steps towards ensuring the establishment of a democratic system of government in Burma which fulfills its human rights obligations. The situation in Burma today is similar to that in Indonesia in 1998 where people were simply seeking genuine change in the country they loved and Indonesia should not let this opportunity pass.

Read the Open Letter to Indonesian Foreign Minister H.E. Dr. Noer Hasan Wirajuda (in .pdf).


Dr. Naing Aung
Secretary General
Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB)

Maung Maung
General Secretary
National Coalition of the Union of Burma (NCUB)

Bo Kyi
Joint Secretary
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma (AAPP)

Debbie Stothard
Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma)

Anselmo Lee
Executive Director
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

For further information, please contact Tadzrul T. Hamzah, Southeast Asia Sub-region Programme Officer, [email protected] and [email protected], +66 (02) 391 8801 (ext 203)

1 ASEAN joint statement by ASEAN Chairperson, Singaporean Minister of Foreign Affairs George Yeo