The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) expressed on Monday its strong opposition to the nomination of Myanmar to chair ASEAN in 2014, arguing that the reclusive country has not improved its poor track-record on human rights.

The lawmakers urged Indonesia, the grouping’s current chair, to use its lobby to persuade other ASEAN countries to force Myanmar drop its bid until the military regime respected democracy and human rights.

On the sidelines of the celebration of ASEAN’s 44th anniversary in Jakarta on Monday, AIPMC president Eva Kusuma Sundari said the caucus had launched their opposition to Myanmar’s bid in protest of human rights abuses in the country, demanding President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono show Indonesia’s commitment to human rights and democracy by persuading others not to support Myanmar.

“The President should be firm in rejecting the nomination of Myanmar as chair of ASEAN in 2014, mainly because of the rampant abuse of the Myanmarese for 23 years,” she said in a press conference.

According to her, various forms of violence and other severe forms of human rights violations have taken place in that country, to which other ASEAN countries have turned a blind eye in respect of ASEAN’s non-interference principle in the internal affairs of member states.

Upon entering the globalization era and the free trade era, ASEAN members can no longer stick to the non-interference principle; instead, they should take diplomatic steps, and even impose sanctions, to push for change in the country, she said.

Krisbiantoro, a staff member with the National Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said Indonesia would face criticism, and its human rights record severely questioned by other countries and global human rights organizations, if the President accepts Myanmar’s nomination.

“As the chair of ASEAN, Indonesia has the power to lobby other ASEAN countries to press Myanmar to respect universal human rights and build a better democracy there,” he said.

ASEAN leaders will decide during their meeting in Bali this November whether to support Myanmar’s intention to chair the grouping in 2014, instead of 2016 as already scheduled. –Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta