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In his Oct. 29 letter, “ASEAN’s act is far from together,” Manuel J. Laserna Jr. claims that the Philippines has been reluctant to admonish the Myanmar regime (aka Burma) for its human rights abuses. This is not accurate.

In 2005 the Philippines defied the consensus of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations by voting for a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the Myanmar junta’s abuses. In September 2007 the Philippine Senate came up with a resolution calling for Myanmar’s expulsion from ASEAN “if the ruling junta persists in abusing its own people.” And in November of the same year, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo shocked the ASEAN community by calling on Myanmar to free opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners. Certainly, Manila has never been reluctant to press the junta over abuses.

The first problem, though, is that the Philippines, unlike Thailand, Malaysia or Singapore, does not have any real leverage over the regime. Second, the Philippines under Arroyo does not have the moral ascendancy to admonish Myanmar over human rights abuses. That’s because extra-judicial killings, forced disappearances and other human rights abuses linked to the Arroyo regime and the military are rampant in the Philippines. In fact, more journalists are killed in the Philippines than in Myanmar. In short, Manila under Arroyo does not practice what it preaches.

j.j. domingo

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