Rome, May 18, 2005

Democratic nations in Asia must oppose the appointment of Burma as chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations in 2006, a group of leaders of human rights and pro democracy organizations from more than 20 countries urged today.

The group issued its appeal in a letter to the Prime Ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, countries that members of the Community of Democracies (COD) and have committed themselves to uphold democratic practices and human rights since 2000, when the COD was launched in Warsaw, Poland.

The COD unites over 100 democratically elected governments and countries in transition to democracy. It seeks to improve cooperation among democratic states in global and regional institutions, coordinate efforts to deepen respect for human rights and democracy, and support emerging democracies.
The letter, drafted by the Transnational Radical Party, together with the Democracy Coalition Project and Freedom House, states that “Granting the chairmanship of ASEAN to Burma would be an unjust reward for a Government that throughout its 8 years of ASEAN membership, has repeatedly failed to fulfill its promises to open its political system. It has lost the trust of the international community, including the United Nations, its ASEAN neighbors and its own citizens.”

“This appeal reflects growing worldwide concern over the profound deterioration of democracy and human rights in Burma since a military junta subverted the democratic process in 1990 and began its brutal reign” said Sergio Stanzani, President of the Transnational Radical Party.

The letter points out the ongoing detention of Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy and Nobel Peace Prize winner, and appeals to the COD to demonstrate solidarity with her and to isolate the Burmese government. In June 2003, the COD Convening Group issued a statement deploring violent government attacks against Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratic political leaders and called for their immediate release and a prompt return to democracy and respect for fundamental human rights.

”Years of pursuing constructive dialogue with the Burmese regime has not led to a relaxation of its anti-democratic policies or its severe repression of the political opposition,” said Ted Piccone, Executive Director of the Democracy Coalition Project.

“It is time for the member states of the Community of Democracies to honor and answer the personal appeal made by Aung San Su Kyi in Warsaw to “please use your freedom to promote ours,” said Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor. “It’s time for a wide circle of democracies to work collectively to prevent Burma from chairing ASEAN.”

The text of the letter follows


18 May, 2005

Prime Minister of Malaysia
President of Indonesia
Prime Minister of Thailand
President of Philippines

Dear Prime Minister/President
We write to you today to signal our deep concern regarding the possibility that Burma might become the Chair of ASEAN in 2006.
We call in particular on you and on your country to make sure that democratic progress and the protection of human rights are promoted in your region, and that their violation and disrespect are not rewarded by ASEAN.
As you know, the UN Commission on Human Rights has recently and unanimously censured the constant disrespect of basic democratic norms of the Burmese military junta which, after gaining power through an illegal military coup more than a decade ago, still refuses to comply with its international obligations to restore democracy and deprives its citizens of their fundamental rights.
The deprivation of freedom that still affects the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi and the leadership of the National League for Democracy, together with the strict limitations on all independent political activities that have stifled the pro-democracy Burmese movements for over 15 years, are the most evident – and undeniable – examples of the injustice that strangles the Burmese society.
Granting the chairmanship of ASEAN to Burma would be an unjust reward for a government that, during the 8 years of its ASEAN membership, has repeatedly failed to fulfil its promises and has blatantly failed to gain the trust of the international community, including the United Nations, its neighbors in Asia and its citizens.
Furthermore, as a member of the Community of Democracies, your country has committed itself together with all democratic nations to the respect of the highest human rights standards, and puts the protection of democracy at the top of its political priorities.
The recent report by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, “In larger freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all”, affirms that no security agenda and no drive for development will be successful unless they are based on the protection and promotion of the universal values of the rule of law, human rights and democracy. This strategic goal cannot be forgotten for the sake of stability, economic gain or realpolitik.
For all these reasons, we strongly hope that your country will take the lead to ensure that ASEAN endorses the principles shared by democratic nations to uphold the principles of democracy, freedom, good governance, and accountability in international organisations, as affirmed by the Warsaw Declaration of the Community of Democracies.
Excellency, we urge you to oppose Burma from becoming the Chair of ASEAN next year.


Sergio Stanzani, Transnational Radical Party, Italy
Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House, USA
Ted Piccone, Democracy Coalition Project, USA
Daniele Capezzone, Radicali italiani, Italy
Gianfranco Dell’Alba, No Peace Without Justice, Italy
Sergio D’Elia, Hands Off Cain, Italy
Marino Busdachin, UNPO, The Netherlands
Peter Ackerman, Freedom House, USA
Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch, USA
Maureen Aung-Thwin, Burma Project, Open Society Institute, Burma
Emma Bonino, Trasnational Radical Party, Italy
Charles J. Brown, Citizens for Global Solutions, USA
Rana Birden Günes, Civil Society Development Programme/ARI Movement, Turkey
Chloe Davies, Open Democracy, UK
Luc Wans Duvalsaint, Asociacion de ex Alcaldes de Haiti, Haiti
Yuri Dzhibladze, Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, Russia
David French, Westminster Foundation for Democracy, UK
Penelope Faulkner, Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, Vietnam
Georges A. Fauriol, International Republican Institute, USA
Carl Gershman, National Endowment for Democracy, USA
Robert Hunter, Council for the Community of Democracies, USA
Bo Kyi, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, Burma
Enkhsaikhan Jargalsaikhan, International Civil Society Forum for Democracy, Mongolia
Kabasubabo Katulondi, Congolese Rally for Democracy, Republic of Congo
Jung Ok Lee, Council of Korean Civil Society Organizations, Korea
Sama Leftawi, Coordinator for Arab Women Network, Palestine
Mohsen Marzouk, Arab Partnership Democracy Center, Tunisia
Ilona Mihaies, Euroregional Center for Democracy, Romania
George Mathew, Institute of Social Sciences, India
Djingarey Maïga, Women and Human Rights, Mali
Khabele Matlosa, EISA, South Africa
Matteo Mecacci, Transnational Radical Party, Italy
Anatoly Mikhailov, European Humanities University, Belarus
Yousry Moustafa, Arab Human Rights Fund, Egypt
Hillel Neuer, UN Watch, Switzerland
Razi Nurullayev, Yox, Azerbajan
Khin Ohmar, Women’s League of Burma, Burma
Tomas Pojar, People in Need Foundation, Czech Republic
Marco Pannella, Trasnational Radical Party, Italy
Dick Rowson, Council for a Community of Democracies, USA
Valantsin Stefanovic, The Human Rights Center, Belarus
Laura Sandys, Open Democracy, UK
Layla Rajab Zayed, Gulf Centre for Democratic Development, Bahrain
Sai Wansai, Shan Democratic Union, Burma
Vanesa Weyrauch, Centro de Implementación de Políticas Públicas para la Equidad y el Crecimiento, Argentina
Ken Wollack, National Democratic Institute, USA
Vo Van Ai, Quê Me: Action for Democracy in Vietnam, Vietnam