Press Release
January 15, 2007


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today expressed dismay over the hesitance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) under the current chairmanship of the Philippines to take stronger steps to compel Myanmar to fulfill its commitment to hasten democratic reforms and free the Burmese people from oppressive military dictatorship.

Pimentel had earlier urged the ASEAN to expel Myanmar from the regional organization and for the Philippine government to take the lead in pursuing this drastic sanction in view of the apparent insincerity of the military rulers in restoring democracy and in complying with the ASEAN principle of respect for human rights, freedom and the dignity of the people.

He said Myanmars ruling junta has consistently ignored the appeal of the international community to lift the house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and to release long-imprisoned leaders of her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).

The NLD won majority of parliamentary seats in the 1990 elections that would have installed Suu kyi as prime minister. But a clique of military generals refused to recognize the outcome of the elections and instead rounded up NLD leaders and throw them into jail.

Pimentel stressed that the Philippines, as a bastion of democracy in the region, and as current ASEAN chairman, should spearhead the efforts to exert pressures on Myanmar and tell its military rulers to stop terrorizing the Burmese people.

He said that aside from the incarceration of defiant opposition leaders without formal charges and trial, violations of human rights are being committed with immunity by the Myanmar military regime, especially among members of the Burmese minorities.

Pimentel said numerous cases of murder, involuntary disappearances, abductions, torture and rape are being reported to the outside world at a terrifying rate by Burmese freedom fighters, including those living in exile abroad.

He said it appears that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo could not muster the will to persuade the ASEAN to impose severe sanctions on Myanmar because at her homefront, she is faced with complaints about rampant extra-judicial killings of political activists, journalists, politicians, lawyers and court officials.

President Arroyo cant ask the ASEAN to expel Myanmar over acts of terrorism against the Burmese people because President-General Tan Shwe cant tell her to stop extra-judicial killings in her own country which she cant do, Pimentel said.

They are birds of the same feather who flock together.

He said only the adoption of tough sanctions against Myanmar by its Asian neighbors will jolt its military rulers from their arrogance and indifference to the plight and misery of the Burmese people and convince them to take solid and decisive steps leading to the return of democracy in that troubled land.

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