[Press Release] Former ASEAN leaders issue letter on Myanmar intolerance

Former ASEAN leaders issue letter on Myanmar intolerance

Kuala Lumpur, Wednesday: Former ASEAN leaders have sent a joint letter to their current ASEAN colleagues, calling for stepped up engagement to address rising intolerance in Myanmar, including proposed discriminatory legislation.

ASEAN-Logo

The letter, issued days before the ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur, has been signed by His Excellency Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (Prime Minister of Malaysia 2003-09, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia 1991-99), His Excellency Dr Surin Pitsuwan (ASEAN Secretary-General 2008-2013, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand 1997-2001), His Excellency Tan Sri Dr Syed Hamid Albar (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia 1999-2008), and His Excellency Mr Kasit Piromya (Minister for Foreign of Thailand 2008-2011). All the signatories were significantly engaged on Myanmar during their tenure.

The letter expressed concern that rising intolerance against religious and ethnic minorities in Myanmar will undermine the country’s reform process, and may affect regional community-building, including ASEAN economic integration.

The signatories requested that ASEAN leaders enhance engagement with Myanmar to implement the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 69/248, and United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution A/HRC/28/L.21, which were adopted by consensus, including by ASEAN members. The resolutions call for restoration of citizenship to Myanmar’s Rohingya and for compliance with international human rights standards.

Tan Sri Dr. Syed Hamid Albar, who initiated the letter as President of HUMANiTi Malaysia, which implements humanitarian and tolerance programs, hoped the letter would serve as a gentle encouragement for ASEAN to help Naypyidaw tackle the problem in a systematic manner. “The region cannot afford to see any backsliding in Myanmar, especially since it may have negative impacts on community-building and integration. I believe many former colleagues who worked hard to help Myanmar begin reforms, and who adopted the blueprints for ASEAN integration, would also support progress on both fronts,” emphasised Tan Sri Dr. Syed Hamid.

The letter was addressed to ASEAN Heads of Government, ASEAN Foreign Ministers, ASEAN Secretary-General, and Permanent Representatives to ASEAN, and was delivered by fax and email on Monday 20 April.

Enquiries: Mr Ahmad Tarmizi Mukhtar, Secretary-General, HUMANiTi Malaysia. Tel + 6016 335 2558

Text of the letter follows:

Your Excellencies,

We would like to offer our congratulations and appreciation for the steps that the government of Myanmar and ASEAN have taken together in order to move forward on Myanmar’s political and economic transition. Much progress has been achieved since we welcomed Myanmar into the ASEAN community in 1997. It has been extremely encouraging to witness each positive development emerging under your leadership.

However, we are concerned that rising intolerance against religious and ethnic minorities in Myanmar will undermine the significant gains made in recent years, and may affect regional community-building, including ASEAN economic integration.

On the occasion of the 26th ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur during 24th – 27th April, 2015, we would like to respectfully request ASEAN leaders to enhance engagement with Myanmar in order to address this matter. In particular, we respectfully request that ASEAN members and institutions actively work with Myanmar to realise implementation of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 69/248, and United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution A/HRC/28/L.21, which were adopted by consensus, including by ASEAN members. We believe such measures are consistent with the spirit and content of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, which was also adopted by consensus.

We remain at your disposal in the pursuit of a truly-integrated people-centered ASEAN,

For Immediate Release: 22 April 2015

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