Ahead of the upcoming summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Bali, parliamentarians of member states have called on bloc leaders to include human rights abuses and ethnic conflict in Burma on its agenda.

Parliamentarians who form the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) called on Monday for Asean delegates to urgently address concerns regarding democratic reform, ethnic conflict and human rights abuses in Burma at the upcoming 19th Asean Summit in Indonesia.

Speaking with The Irrawaddy on Monday, AIPMC Executive Director Agung Putri Astrid said that the slow process of democratic reform in Burma should be seriously considered during the summit.

“Political reform is very slow in Burma. We don’t see comprehensive reform and are concerned with the process. So Asean is responsible for monitoring human rights abuses in Myanmar,” she added.

While Naypyidaw claims that it wants to talk to opposition leaders and achieve national reconciliation, little effort has been made to involve ethnic minorities.

Agung Putri Astrid said that AIPMC was trying to remind Asean leaders to include peace in Burma on the summit agenda as the bloc has not so far approached Burma’s ethnic issues.

A statement from AIPMC said the association welcomed recent changes in Burma, but remains concerned about ongoing military conflicts with ethnic groups and the relatively slow pace of political reform. It is vital, therefore, that delegates from members states ensure these issues are officially placed on the agenda at the 2011 Asean Summit.

Despite recent limited improvements, Burma President Thein Sein has demonstrated a lack of willingness to undertake genuine reforms, such as releasing political prisoners or ending armed conflict with ethnic groups, said the statement.

A recent survey by the Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) humanitarian agency found that more people in southeast Burma had been forcibly displaced from their homes during the past year than any other since data was first collected in 2002.

In relation to human rights protection, the AIPMC asked that Asean be firm and resolute in calling for the immediate cessation of hostilities in Burma, especially in ethnic areas. In Karen, Kachin and Shan states, there remain grave concerns that war crimes and crimes against humanity continue to be perpetrated, as mentioned in the recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma, Tomás Ojea Quintana.

Burma is hoping to get approved for the 2014 Asean chair at the Bali summit with recent  limited reforms understood to have been undertaken in order to achieve this goal.

Eva Kusuma Sundari, the AIPMC president and a member of the Indonesian Parliament, said in the group statement, “Gross human rights violations against ordinary people in ethnic areas continue despite lip service towards reform from Naypyidaw.”

“If anything, life under this regime is worse for many ethnic minorities and vulnerable people than it was before,” he added.

Projects such as the Yadana and Shwe Gas pipelines, undertaken by the government of Burma and fiscally supported by other states including China, have led to serious environmental concerns and human rights violations. These include land confiscations, displacement, torture, rape and other forms of systematic violence.

An estimated 50,000 people have been displaced due to the Shwe Gas pipeline project, according to the Shwe Gas Movement campaign group.

“Reconciliation is a prerequisite of any political initiative for peace in Myanmar and should serve as a critical indicator of how meaningful any democratization process is,” Sundari added. –SAW YAN NAING Monday, http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=22449