Tue, 10 Jun 2003

Indonesia stays mum on Suu Kyi's arrest

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesia has decided not to make a statement for or against the arrest of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, saying its opinion on the issue would be delivered to Myanmar behind closed doors.

Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda said on Monday that his Myanmar counterpart had sent an explanation letter regarding the case.

"In their terminology, it was called temporary detention, of course I will reply to explain Indonesia's stance and suggestion as a friendly neighbor and member of ASEAN," Hassan said, without elaborating.

Both Indonesia and Myanmar are member countries of Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN), whose foreign ministers are slated to have their annual meeting next week in Phnom Penh.

Hassan expressed hopes that the situation in Myanmar would not hamper the ministerial meeting, where Indonesia will assume the ASEAN presidency.

"With the status of temporary detention, we hope it will not jeopardize the coming meeting," the minister said.

Myanmar opposition leader and winner of the Nobel peace prize Suu Kyi was taken into custody by the military government early this month.

Unconfirmed reports said that Suu Kyi was injured in the clash between her followers and government supporters, that preceded the arrest.

The Philippines and Thailand had earlier expressed concerns over the safety of the pro-democracy leader and summoned Myanmar ambassadors to the two countries to seek an explanation over the incident.

International relations commentator Dewi Fortuna Anwar said that with the non-interference principle of ASEAN, it was understandable that Indonesia would refrain from comment on the situation in Yangon.

She said that while it was impossible to expect the government to criticize Myanmar, she suggested that any democratic person in society, especially in democratic countries like Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, should keep the pressure up against the arrest.

"Public pressure can have an influence on the governments of ASEAN member countries to bring the issue to a closed door meeting between them," Dewi told The Jakarta Post.

"The society should speak louder against the arrest to make those governments push Myanmar to discuss the matter," she remarked.

She added that it was about time for ASEAN to modify the non- interference principle to further improve the ability of ASEAN in the future.

Hassan also suggested that for an organization that has been together for more than three decades, each member country should be more mature in discussing their internal political problems.

"That is why we plan to propose an ASEAN security community as an advance political cooperation among member countries to discuss these kinds of problems," the minister said.