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An Election Not Worthy of Support

September 30, 2010 Leave a comment

By Win Tin, founder of Burma’s National League for Democracy party and a member of its central executive committee. He was a political prisoner from 1989 to 2008.

Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, recently said the world must exercise “utmost vigilance” to ensure the approaching elections in Myanmar (Burma) are free and fair.

We are disappointed in such comments, which focus on the election as something important for our country, as something worth waiting and watching for, although this election is not the solution for Burma.

The elections, scheduled for Nov. 7, are designed to legalize military rule in Burma under the 2008 constitution, which was written to create a permanent military dictatorship in our country.

After the election, the constitution will come into effect, a so-called civilian government will be formed by acting and retired generals who all are under the military commander-in-chief, and the people of Burma will legally become the subjects of the military.

Our party, the National League for Democracy, and our ethnic allies have refused to accept the regime’s constitution and have decided to boycott the elections. The military regime’s constitution and severely restricting election laws demonstrated to all of us the true intention the regime has for this election — the legalization and legitimization of military rule in our country.

We refuse to abandon our aspirations for democracy in Burma and give the regime the legitimacy it wants for its elections. With millions of people of Burma supporting our position, we hoped the international community would understand the regime’s intentions as clearly as we do and pressure the regime to stop its unilateral and undemocratic process.

Until recently, the United Nations demanded the regime commit itself to an all-parties inclusive, participatory, free and fair process through political dialogue with democratic opposition and representatives of ethnic minorities. But now an important phrase — “all-parties inclusive” — is surprisingly excluded from their statements and speeches.

Although Ms. Pillay urged the world to exercise “utmost vigilance,” there is no need to wait until the Election Day to make a judgment. The election commission was appointed by the regime and filled with loyalists who unilaterally decided that many candidates are ineligible to run. The electoral laws and by-laws impose severe restrictions on political parties. Thousands of political prisoners — including our leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi — are not allowed to participate in the election or be members of the parties.

The regime’s prime minister and cabinet ministers have switched to civilian dress, transformed their mass organization into their political party, and are campaigning with the use of state properties, resources, funds and threats. The election commission is shamelessly violating its own rules in favor of the prime minister’s party and other proxy parties of the regime.

Is it really necessary for the international community to wait until election day to see whether the elections are free and fair?

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The U.S.-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership: The Security Component

September 30, 2010 Leave a comment

By John B. Haseman, former U.S. Defense Attache in Jakarta and U.S. Army colonel and Eduardo Lachica, former reporter for The Wall Street Journal

This is a partnership encompassing a number of activities including education, trade, and the environment but its security component can be said to be its progenitor and working model.  Long before President Yudhoyono called for its creation, the security component was already a mutually beneficial undertaking for the region. It serves the U.S. as another validation of its offshore security presence. It helps Indonesia modernize and reform its armed forces and police.

Indonesia is a deserving U.S. partner. It offers itself as a case study of the inadequacy of military force to solve internal conflict and the superior utility of good-faith negotiations.  Having learned that armed force alone cannot win the peace, Indonesia turned to political negotiations to end insurgency in Aceh and religious strife in the Moluccas and Sulawesi. Indonesia’s experience can be particularly helpful to Thailand and the Philippines, where violence and terrorism plague the southern regions of both countries.

The partnership takes no formal notice of China’s growing and potentially intrusive military power. But its value as a potential counter to the rising Chinese tide has to be in back of the minds of U.S. policy-makers. In the 1990s China released a map claiming sovereignty over virtually all of the South China Sea. The map marked off as Chinese territory all of the disputed Spratly Islands (where Indonesia has no claim) but, more significantly, a long “tongue” of sovereign waters that included virtually all of Indonesia’s Riau Archipelago, including the resource-rich Natuna Islands. China withdrew the offending map, but indications are that China still considers the South China Sea as part of its territorial waters. Needless to say, Indonesia itself has a high priority in protecting its interests there.

In addition to these sovereignty claims, China is expanding its influence elsewhere in the region. It is the primary military and political supporter of the Burmese junta. Most recently it has expanded its influence in Timor Leste. China funded the construction of that fledgling state’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs building and its presidential palace and will build a new headquarters for the East Timor Defense Force. China also sold two patrol boats to the East Timor Defense Force. It will not only will it train the East Timorese crews, but also man the vessels until those crews are ready. These developments have created considerable unease in Jakarta and Australia; certainly the U.S. has a vested interest in forestalling, to the extent possible, this Chinese “bracketing” of Indonesia. Read more…

Succession in North Korea: Kim Jong Un Promoted to 4-Star General

September 28, 2010 Leave a comment

By Victor D. ChaSenior Adviser and Korea Chair at CSIS and Kathleen HarringtonResearch Associate, CSIS  Korea Chair

Kim Jong-il’s stroke back in August 2008 and his continued frail health have brought the succession question to the center of the North Korean political/military agenda and to the forefront of global discussion and speculation regarding the insular communist state. Though North Korea has yet to officially announce who will succeed the “Dear Leader,” several signs point to Kim Jong-il’s third son, Kim Jong-un. The most significant sign thus far has been Kim Jong-un’s promotion to a 4-star general, which was announced yesterday.

If the youngest son is indeed appointed successor, he would mark the third generation of the Kim dynastic rule in North Korea, and his ascent to power would solidify the fact that North Korea is the only communist nation to tolerate hereditary successions. Optimists hope that with a new leader, positive change may be brought about in North Korea. However, North Korea may be a quintessential example of Plato’s postulation that bad states produce bad leaders. Moreover, if the rumors of Kim Jong-un’s personality are true, then it can be expected that his regime will be much the same as if not worse than his father’s dictatorship.

Q1: What is known about Kim Jong-un?

A1: Kim Jong-il’s third wife, Ko Young-hee, gave birth to Kim Jong-un on January 8. His exact year of birth, however, is not known for certain. It is assumed that he was born in 1982, 1983, or 1984, making his estimated age from 26 to 28 years. He reportedly attended the International School of Bern in Switzerland, graduating in 1998. He later returned to North Korea and studied military science at Kim Il-sung Military University between 2002 and 2006. It is also reported that he speaks some English, German (Bernese), and French. According to Kim Jong-il’s former personal chef, of the three sons, Kim Jong-un is the most like his father in attitude and appearance.

Q2: What are the indications that Kim Jong-un is the intended successor?

A2: It seems that Kim Jong-un’s rise to power is following the same trajectory as Kim Jong-il’s. In 2006, badges with Kim Jong-un’s face were reportedly distributed among senior North Korean officials. In 2007, the youngest Kim was reportedly working in either the Organization Guidance Department, where his father got his start in the Workers’ Party, or the Korean People’s Army’s General Political Bureau. Both departments are responsible for monitoring members of the party and military. On January 8, 2009, South Korean media reported that Kim Jong-il had indeed appointed Kim Jong-un to be his successor, but these reports remain unconfirmed to this day. His name reportedly appeared on the ballot for election to the Supreme People’s Assembly in early 2009. In December, his birthday was made an official holiday. Songs of praise for Kim Jong-un are reportedly sung on special occasions in North Korea, and he has been given the public title of “Brilliant Comrade,” much like his father, the “Dear Leader,” and his grandfather, the “Great Leader.” Recent reports indicate that the term “party center” has started to reappear in North Korean official documents. This term was used to refer to Kim Jong-il before he was officially appointed the successor of Kim Il-sung, and many believe it now is being used to refer to Kim Jong-un in the same way. Most recently, Kim Jong-un was promoted by his father to the rank of 4-star general. The announcement of his promotion is the first time he has been mentioned by name in the state-run media.

Q3: Are there any other possible candidates for succession?

A3: Though the appointment of Kim Jong-un as successor seems inevitable, his youth may necessitate a regent to rule in his stead for an undesignated period of time. The most likely candidate for regent would be Kim Jong-un’s uncle and Kim Jong-il’s brother-in-law, Jang Sung-taek, who is vice chairman of the National Defense Commission and second in command. Jang Sung-taek has reportedly been punished in the past for his personal ambitiousness. He was removed from power between 2004 and 2006 and was later reinstated with a lower position. It has also been reported that Kim Jong-il personally asked Jang Sung-taek to take care of his family, including Kim Jong-un. Jang’s role in the leadership is supported by his wife, Kim’s sister Kim Kyung-hee, who was also promoted to the rank of 4-star general along with Kim Jong-un. She has become increasingly important to the family behind the scenes as Kim Jong-il’s health has worsened. Despite what may seem to be a relatively set succession process, a power struggle after Kim Jong-il’s death is not outside the realm of possibility.

Q4: Will U.S. policy toward North Korea change when the new regime comes to power?

A4: It is safe to say that U.S. policy toward North Korea will remain steadfast with the new regime, barring any catastrophic events or miracles. One reason is the basic lack of information. The party conference’s results may indicate a power transition, but there is little information as to what stage of the transition the conference represents. In short, we may see smoke, but we do not know whether this is the beginning of the fire or the end of it. U.S. sanctions on North Korea will not be eased until the regime takes significant steps toward denuclearization. The United States and South Korea will also not be likely to return to the Six-Party Talks without some resolution of the attack on the Cheonan. Only when the new regime shows its willingness to cooperate with the international community and denuclearize will U.S. policy toward North Korea change in any significant way.

2nd US ASEAN LEADERS’ MEETING: Elevating the Partnership to a Strategic Level

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ernie Z. Bower, Senior Adviser & Director, CSIS Southeast Asia Program

The tone of the meeting between eight of the ten ASEAN leaders and US President Barack Obama may be one of the most striking characteristics of the event.  The mood was sober, serious and focused.   Absent were hortatory declarations and rhetorical directives representing frustrated diplomatic initiatives of some past meetings. These were heads of government with a sense of mission.

Despite the fact that there were imperfections in the structure of the meeting, notably the absence of President Susilio Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, the region’s largest country and incoming chairman of ASEAN, the leaders were particularly cognizant that words used would be examined carefully in the context of renewed tension between the US and China.  The result was a comprehensive Joint Statement whose most important line was that, “We welcomed the idea to elevate our partnership to a strategic level and will make this a primary focus area.”

While the media scoured the Waldorf Astoria and rang analysts seeking perspectives that would feed a story-line of increased US-China friction they were developing from Manhattan, President Obama and the ASEAN leaders embarked on a focused review of the US ASEAN relationship and noted areas of deep cooperation which taken together suggest a real commitment to reinvigorate US engagement in the region.

Importantly, both the US and ASEAN rejected the idea that their relationship is defined by China. This point is important because it means the US wants to reinvigorate its relationship with ASEAN because of the important economic, political, security and socio-economic benefits close ties will bring, not because it needs the relationship to manage an emergent China.  Clearly, how China defines its role and desires in the region and globally will continue to be a fundamental concern of all parties at the table, but it is a process the partners can review and respond to if necessary from a base of strong mutual interests.

Read more…

Statement by President Aquino at the 2nd ASEAN-US Leaders’ Meeting

September 25, 2010 Leave a comment

By President Benigno S. Aquino III, President of the Philippines

September 24, 2010, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City

President Obama,

President Triet,

My colleagues in ASEAN,

Good afternoon.

The Philippines has the distinct privilege of being Country Coordinator of ASEAN-US relations, and on behalf of ASEAN, I thank President Obama for his invitation and gracious welcome to this meeting today.

This follow-up meeting less than a year after the First ASEAN-US Leaders Meeting in Singapore is testimony to America’s commitment to being an active partner of ASEAN.

Our common desire to intensify our partnership comes at a particularly crucial time. From this meeting a communique of deep interest to our friends in East Asia will emerge. I am confident we will reach a consensus that will promote not only a deeper, more harmonious ASEAN-US partnership, but also continued stability and peace in our region.

As I said in Manila, we in ASEAN are building our future on firm foundations laid down in the past. The founding generations of our respective governments—the leaders of our respective struggles for self-determination and independence from colonialism—established our countries as modern nation-states. In turn, they formed ASEAN as a regional organization.

With their passing from the political stage, the second generation of leaders of our respective nations, statesmen secure in the independence of their countries, began the transformation of ASEAN from a regular gathering of leaders into a fully multilateral organization. Their legacy is the ASEAN Charter itself.

The task of our generation—the first generation of leaders to be born as independent citizens of our respective nations—is to turn this Charter into a more binding commitment to our mutual economic and political interests.

Since our Charter came into being in 2008, ASEAN has been conscious in pursuing initiatives to build the ASEAN community along three pillars: political-security; economic; and socio-cultural. Our Charter provides the guiding principle for our engaging the United States.

Much can be said about the United States’ support for the strengthening of our regional architecture. We welcome and appreciate this: from the US’ interest in joining the East Asia Summit, to your participation in such mechanisms as the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus and the ASEAN Regional Forum.

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Remembering the Past

September 25, 2010 Leave a comment

By Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore.

Thailand, on 19 September 2010, marked the 4th anniversary of the military coup. While remembering the past, the pro-Thaksin red-shirted members launched three-day demonstrations both in Bangkok and Chiangmai and demanded the Abhisit Vejjajiva government instigate economic and judicial reforms and release all political prisoners, including 17 core leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), the red-shirted political entity.

The mood in Bangkok was tense as its residents learned about a new wave of red-shirted demonstrations. For them, it was too soon to forget about arson attacks against public property at the hands of the red shirts on 19 April this year. The return to the streets of the red-shirts, albeit peaceful and orderly, reminded the country of the existing gap between two different political ideologies. The gap has not been closed, thus allowing problems to periodically escalate.

In this context, what do the Thais learn from the military coup?

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White House: Joint Statement of Second US-ASEAN Leaders Meeting

September 24, 2010 1 comment

Joint Statement of the 2nd U.S.-ASEAN Leaders Meeting, New York, NY

September 24, 2010

1. We, the heads of State/Government of Brunei Darussalam, the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Republic of Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, the Union of Myanmar, the Republic of Philippines, the Republic of Singapore, the Kingdom of Thailand and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, the Member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the United States (U.S.), held our Second ASEAN-U.S. Leaders’ Meeting on September 24 in New York.  The Meeting was co-chaired by H.E. Nguyen Minh Triet, President of Viet Nam, in his capacity as Chairman of ASEAN, and H. E. Barack Obama, President of the United States of America.  The Secretary-General of ASEAN was also in attendance.

2. ASEAN appreciated the United States’ sustained engagement at the highest level with ASEAN Member States.  We reaffirmed that U.S. participation in the annual Post Ministerial Conference (PMC) meetings, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the upcoming ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus) process, sustained engagement through the U.S.-ASEAN Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement (TIFA), U.S. accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), and the establishment of a permanent Mission to ASEAN have all demonstrated the United States’ firm commitment to continue to strengthen comprehensive relations with ASEAN.  We welcomed the appointment of the first resident U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN in Jakarta.

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