Turmoil in Burma threatens Southeast Asia — Pimentel

May. 25, 2007

TOKYO Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q.
Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) warned that the continuing
political turmoil in Burma (Myanmar), caused by the
repressive rule of its military junta, threatens the
stability of Southeast Asia as he pressed the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and
Japan to exert stronger pressure to help restore
democracy there.

Pimentel bewailed that Burma remains under the rule of
a military junta since it replaced a freely-elected
government and jailed opposition leaders headed by
Aung San Suu Kyi about 17 years ago. The military
rulers, he said, have not fulfilled their commitment
to ASEAN to adopt a new democratic constitution and to
hold free elections.

Burma needs to democratize because it is not fair
that the military junta should in effect be allowed to
continue forcing itself upon the hapless peoples of
the country simply because they have the gun, he told
the International Conference of Japanese Diet members
and ASEAN parliamentarians at the Yotsuya Kumin Center

Burma needs to democratize because the barbaric rule
of the military junta is creating a humanitarian
crisis for its people and threatens the stability of
the region.

At the same time, Pimentel, vice-chairman of the ASEAN
Interparliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC), denounced
Burmas ruling junta for threatening to embark on a
nuclear program.

He said Russia plans to help the military junta in
Burma to build a 10-megawatt nuclear reactor.

Should the plan push through, it would be a recipe
for disaster in a country like Burma where there is no
rule of law that demands accountability of its rulers
and where education, health and safety are not
priorities of the government, the senator from
Mindanao said.

Today, he said Burma is the worlds largest source of
refugees after Afghanistan and Iraq. By the end of
2005, some 700,000 Burmese refugees had fled their

The refugees are hobbled by all sorts of ailments,
Pimentel said. They are also subjected to mistreatment
at the hands of immigration and government agencies of
neighboring countries when crossing borders.

He said Burma is also the battleground of the worlds
longest-running war, as the military regime has been
prolonging the war against the ethnic Karen minority
by targeting unarmed civilian communities.

The effects of the turmoil impacts on neighboring
countries and inevitably affects the regions
stability. The war has been dragging on this ASEAN
front yard for roughly 60 years, Pimentel said.

He said Burma continues to be the main producer of
amphetamine in Southeast Asia and the second largest
producer of opium in the world. Thus, he said
individual ASEAN states face a public health crisis
arising from drug abuse and addiction brought about
mainly by drugs produced in and trafficked from Burma.

The minority leader said the mismanagement of Burmas
internal affairs by the military junta has created
scores of transnational security problems that
undermine the stability of the region itself.

For instance, Pimentel said the military junta has
done almost nothing to address the dire internal
health situation and the social disasters they have

The people of Burma, according to the veteran
legislator, are struggling to cope with the ravages of
infectious disease such as HIV/AIDS.

Pimentel also cautioned Japan against extending
certain forms of aid to Burma that tend to strengthen
the ruling junta more directly without in any way
adjusting or correcting the unjust political structure
that perpetuates the oppression of the Burmese people.

On this score, he expressed doubts that Japans
assistance to the upgrading of the facilities of the
Rangoon International Airport or the construction of
the Baluchaung hydro-electric power plants, roads,
bridges and even schools and dormitories and the
sponsoring of film festivals or judo sports contests
could be excused as humanitarian assistance.

Neither could the assistance by Japan to Burma last
year for national planning and economic development
nor the grants for cultural purposes or the funds for
the production of liquor from buckwheat be deemed
humanitarian aid, Pimentel said.

However, he said it is heartening to note that the
effort to democratize Burma is backed by many
countries and individuals from within ASEAN and
supported by other nations around the world.

The sacrifices of Ang San Suu Kyi, and her comrades,
have not gone unnoticed. In fact, their unceasing
opposition to the ruling junta is well appreciated by
freedom-loving citizens in every nook and corner of
the globe and they continue to inspire us, in ASEAN,
as well.

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