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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #139: June 17, 2003

Asean ministers pledge anti-terror cooperation, urge Suu Kyi's release

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Asean ministers pledge anti-terror cooperation, urge Suu Kyi's release"
(By S Ramesh) Channelnewsasia


The article reports of Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi, among other things, in respect to ASEAN meeting held in Phnom Penh. The meeting of the ASEAN members, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar, is to be later joined by Japan, China, and South Korea, where the enlarged gathering has been dubbed as 'ASEAN plus 3. An interesting development this year was, as mentioned in the article, the ASEAN ministers included a comment on the detention of Mrs Aung San Suu Kyi by the junta government of Myanmar in the joint communiqué, contrary to the tradition that ASEAN as a group would not discuss matters of domestic nature in member countries.

Japan is the largest provider of assistance to Myanmar, and should be able to play a significant role in the affair. Japanese government, in fact, has always taken a position for Mrs Aung San Suu Kyi to be freed since 1989 when she was first placed under house arrest.

Myanmar was used to be called Burma in the Western world, and in Japan, too, in a phonetically emulated form of the Dutch word. The alphabetical notation of the name of the state was changed by the government at the time in 1989, to Myanmar. Many explanations and speculations were publicized by the government and those who oppose the military regime, and some opponents of junta still refer to the country as Burma.

As with other areas in the vicinity, the country was colonized by the UK in 19th century, after a number of armed confrontations. Indians and Chinese were brought in to manage the colony to later complicate the racial mix. During WWII, Japan drove out the British, invading (or freeing, depending on your view) the region.

Burma was approved independence, technically from the UK, in 1948. The hero, only one so treated in the country and its people until the present day, in building the nation was General Aung-San, who was assassinated just before the independence, in 1947. General Aung-San received training in the Japanese army during WWII and then fought with the Japanese to drive off the British. But after the British disappeared, he became an opponent of Japanese army in the effort to win true independence for his country. After the war, he led the negotiations with the British government for independence.

In retrospect, the death of General Aung-San was indeed unfortunate for the people. Since immediately after the independence was won; the country has been a constant chaos. The present conflict is a direct offspring of the denial by the junta of election results of 1990, where the government refused to hand over the powers to Mrs Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of General Aung-San, who won the overwhelming majority at the first multi-party general election of the land. Mrs Aung San Suu Kyi won the Nobel peace prize in 1991, but it did not do much to change the country.

Perhaps one element to add to explain for the Japanese people being so attached to the country is a novel titled 'Burmese Lyre' written by Michio Takeyama in 1956. (Apparently, no English translation is available). It is a story of a defeated Japanese soldier to wander in the area with an underlying a tone of resentment toward war in general, but also with descriptions of the beautiful land scattered about in the book.

Myanmar seems to need only another small step to emerge into a modern country to take part in the Asian endeavor to bring peace and prosperity to the region. Is it not about time to take that step after centuries of suffering by the people?

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