Wednesday 25 July 2012

Suu Kyi urges MPs to back minority rights

ABC, 25 July

Updated July 26, 2012 13:07:40
Burmese opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has addressed the Burmese parliament for the first time to support calls for new laws to protect the country's many ethnic minority groups.
The 67-year-old's speech symbolises the changes which have unfolded since the military ceded power to the new government in March last year.

After two decades of animosity between the junta and Ms Suu Kyi, her once-outlawed National League for Democracy (NLD) won 43 of 44 seats in the April by-elections.
Speaking from the floor of the lower house in Naypyidaw, Ms Suu Kyi said Burma's ethnic minorities have suffered decades of civil war and underdevelopment, and laws should be made to ensure their rights were guaranteed.

Ms Suu Kyi, who was sworn into parliament in May, said such legislation should be "based on equality, mutual respect and confidence for the emergence of a genuine democratic union".
Also significant was her backing for a motion tabled by a lawmaker from the NLD's biggest rival, the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), a party dominated by retired military people and created by the former regime.

Citing a report by the Asian Development Bank, Ms Suu Kyi said Burma's ethnic minority areas, which are mostly along the borders with China and Thailand, were the worst affected in terms of poverty.
"Civil war still has not ended. Therefore, it can be seen that protecting the rights of the ethnic minorities is more broad-based than preserving languages and cultures," she added.

Recent clashes in the west of the country between ethnic Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya left dozens dead and tens of thousands homeless.

Indonesian politician and president of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus, Eva Kusuma Sundari, told Radio Australia's Connect Asia, Ms Suu Kyi's speech is only the first step.
"We've been waiting for quite long, finally she speak up and we're happy that now she's said something and we're happy also with what she said.

"But we are still waiting for the response from the ASEAN leaders."
But Ms Sundari doesn't expect Ms Suu Kyi speech to be the political force needed for change.
"We have learnt that Suu Kyi, more or less is still hesitant to impose herself."

She says ASEAN and the international community needs to exert political pressure on Burma to take action, particularly her own country.
"We are waiting until now...our President Mr Yudhoyono, we want him to say something and we want him to do something.
"Indonesia must continue to act as an initiator for any conflict, and ASEAN as mediators."
The UN expert on human rights in Burma will visit the country at the invitation of the government at the end of July.

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