Press Release
December 4, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the decision of Myanmars military leader Gen. Than Shwe not to attend the 12th summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Cebu on Dec. 11-12 should not be a cause for regret.

Pimentel said the ASEAN summit may be better off without Shwe, head of the military junta which has been running Myanmar for the last four decades now.

Good that Myanmar dictator Than Shwe has decided not to attend the ASEAN summit. Anti-Than Shwe demonstrations would greet him once he steps on Philippine soil despite the crazy threat of the secretary of justice to throw the rallysts to the sharks, he said.

Pimentel, Chair of the Philippine Chapter on Southeast Asian Parliamentary Caucus on Myanmar, has been prodding the Philippine government, in its capacity as current ASEAN chair, to exert pressure on the ruling junta to adopt concrete steps towards the restoration of democracy and to release Aung San Syu Kyi and other opposition leaders who are either under house arrest or military detention.

The ASEAN summit should not miss the chance to strike a blow for freedom for the oppressed Burmese people. We should recommend that former President Fidel Ramos replace Gambardi as representative of United Nations Secretary General Koffi Anan to Myanmar, he said.

Gen. Than Shwe has sent word that he will not attend the annual ASEAN summit because he is preoccupied with this month with the drafting of a new Constitution, supposedly the first stage in Burmas seven-step road map to democracy. But the military junta refuses to set a timetable for the roadmap which it first announced in 2003.

Pimentel said the sincerity of Myanmars military rulers in complying with their commitment to ASEAN to restore democracy has been under a cloud of doubt after they repeatedly extended the house arrest of Aung San, whose political party won the parliamentary election in 1992.

Aung San has been in detention without any trial for more than 15 years now. And that, I venture to say, is truly tragic, he said.

Pimentel attended recently a conference on Myanmar in London which was organized by the British think-tank Wilton Park.

The conference, which saw the participation of Burmese people living in Myanmar and those who are on exile abroad, explored ways by which that country may develop democratically even as the people struggle to be freed from military dictatorship.

Some non-government organization workers urged that international humanitarian assistance in the country be augmented even within the constraints of the authoritarian regime.

Ethnic representative of the Shan, Karen, Mon and other tribunal groups in Myanmar pleaded for international sanctions to be imposed on the military regime.

According to Pimentel, they submitted documented reports of mass extermination of ethnic minorities; rape as a means of intimidation and humiliation of women; wholesale abductions of suspected rebels; forced labor; and conscription of child soldiers.

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