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Jakarta Post

Editorial: RI'€™s silence on Myanmar

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

  /   Thu, November 12, 2015   /  08:58 am

It is indeed saddening and regrettable that, at least until Wednesday, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry has not made any statement sending a clear message of '€œconstructive engagement'€ on the determination of the people of Myanmar to become a fully fledged democracy after decades of military dictatorship.

Indonesia can no longer hide behind ASEAN'€™s '€œnon-interference'€ doctrine to justify its reluctance to play a more decisive but considered approach toward Myanmar. It is almost certain now that the National League for Democracy (NLD) will have a landslide victory in the election.

However, there is no guarantee that the military will accept the election results. It has made sure that NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi cannot assume the presidency, which means the country is facing the likely possibility of a '€œpuppet president'€.

Before it'€™s too late, Indonesia should immediately take a stance and lead ASEAN'€™s joint efforts to help the people of Myanmar reach their goal of democracy. Learning from the military'€™s assault on democracy and brazen decision to reject the internationally recognized general elections, in Myanmar 15 years ago, Indonesia should be more proactive than it has been in the past as a friend of Myanmar.

Indonesia is constitutionally and morally responsible for helping all parties in Myanmar, including its army generals, reach this goal, no matter how painful the sacrifices they have to endure during the transition to democracy.

What is going on in Myanmar now is very similar to Indonesia'€™s experience when people'€™s power forced Soeharto to step down in 1998. In fact it will be very difficult for the Myanmar army generals to lose their privileges, although Gen. (ret) Thein Sein opened the country after a long period of international isolation in 2011.

Aspects of Myanmar'€™s political life such as the military'€™s dual function, the establishment of a single ruling party and government-controlled general elections are all things that Myanmar'€™s generals emulated from president Soeharto during his 32-year reign over Indonesia.

As President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo lacks experience in dealing with foreign policy issues, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi could be more assertive in promoting Indonesia'€™s long-standing position on Myanmar, with the President'€™s consent. Indonesia'€™s silence indicates that the country prefers the old-fashioned '€œsafe play'€ approach, regardless of its title as the world'€™s third-largest democracy after India and the United States, and the largest member of ASEAN.

If that is the path it wishes to take, then it is understandable that Jakarta will follow the traditional diplomatic custom of congratulating the winner of Myanmar'€™s election only after the official result is announced.

There is nothing strange with that practice, except that the nation in question is one of the 10 members of ASEAN, and one that has long struggled to become a democracy.

Again, before it'€™s too late, Indonesia should be much more proactive as a friend of Myanmar in sharing its experiences and encouraging both the winner and the loser of Myanmar'€™s election to accept the people'€™s choice. The question is, do we dare take the risk?

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