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Impose economic and diplomatic sanctions against Myanmar: ASEAN lawmakers

Asean should impose economic and diplomatic sanctions against Myanmar for ignoring calls to commit to free and fair elections, a group of Asean lawmakers said Wednesday.

Myanmar should also be immediately suspended from Asean and its expulsion considered, the parliamentarians urged in a petition to government leaders gathering for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations annual summit this week in Vietnam.

“Immediate, substantial and effective action must be taken as all forms of constructive engagement with Myanmar’s military regime have undoubtedly failed,” the petition, signed by 105 legislators, said.

The lawmakers also condemned the new election laws announced by Myanmar’s military government last month, which are seen to undermine the credibility of the country’s electoral process. Myanmar is expected to hold elections later this year – its first in two decades.

In March, the Myanmar military government unveiled election laws. Among them, parties registering for the elections must exclude members serving prison terms.

This would mean that Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader, who has been under house arrest for almost two decades, as well as many senior members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party, would be disqualified from the national elections.

The NLD has since declared that it will not take part in the elections under the new laws.

“Numerous provisions in the laws guarantee that the elections will not be open and inclusive of Myanmar’s diverse population,” the petition said.

“With the promulgation of these apparently biased laws...the regime has forfeited its best opportunity to show willingness to engage in an inclusive process of national reconciliation and the establishment of a lawful and democratic government,” it added.

To force the Myanmar junta into action, petitioners suggest the imposition of targeted economic sanctions which “would effectively cut the economic lifeline of these corrupt leaders and compel them to begin genuine dialogue and reforms.”

Asean should also propose to the United Nations the imposition of an arms embargo on Myanmar and the convening of an inquiry into the junta’s crimes against humanity, they said.

The petition was delivered by the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus – a group of legislators lobbying for democratic reforms in the former British colony – on behalf of parliamentarians from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Cambodia, and Singapore.

Mr Charles Chong, People’s Action Party MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol, is the sole Singaporean petitioner.

Wong Chun Han