Manila, Philippines – One hundred (100) solidarity activists belonging to the Free Burma Coalition – Philippines (FBCP) today held a symbolic action in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to press for Burmese people’s demands in the second day of Burmese President Thein Sein’s visit to the Philippines. An open letter addressed to President Thein Sein and President Benigno Aquino III was handed over to the representatives of the DFA, to urge the two ASEAN leaders to include in their ongoing bilateral agenda the urgent need to uphold and advance Burma’s (Myanmar) transition to real peace and democracy now.
“The bond between the peoples of the Philippines and Burma (Myanmar) is anchored on parallel histories of oppression under and of collective resistance against colonial powers and repressive military dictatorships,” Rasti Delizo of FBC-P and SANLAKAS said. “It is in our common yearning for genuine peace and freedom that we, along with the peoples of our countries find solidarity. It is also in this context that we call on President Thein Sein to take decisive steps towards achieving genuine peace and democracy in Burma (Myanmar).”
Peace in the ASEAN Region
The state visit is President Thein Sein’s first to the Philippines since his assumption to office in 2011. The two leaders will meet to discuss issues of mutual concern, particularly in the areas of trade and investment, as well as regional issues, including Myanmar’s historic chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2014.
“While both countries tread the path of transformation, genuine peace is yet to be achieved. In the Philippines, while we have made notable feats in resolving armed conflict in the Bangsamoro, the burgeoning and deepening social inequalities remain to be insufficiently responded to. In Burma (Myanmar), while there are new spaces and opportunities for engagement, human rights and labor rights violations as well as injustices against ethnic peoples still persist and continue to worsen. These prevailing injustices frustrate the attainment of all-encompassing and sustainable peace in the ASEAN region,” explained Yuen Abana of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), also a member of the FBC-P.
In the Open Letter addressed to Presidents Thein Sein and Benigno Aquino III, FBC-P called on the Burmese government to:
- Immediately release all political prisoners, abolish all repressive laws and formally recognize the peoples’ fundamental human rights in Burma’s (Myanmar) Constitution;
- Speed up the political dialogue and the peace processes between the Burmese government and the ethnic armed groups based on the comprehensive and inclusive framework for peace and the ethnic peoples’ right to self-determination; completely stop the continuing military offensives against ethnic communities of the Kachin and Shan peoples; and uphold the peoples’ right to freedom of religion, especially of the Rohingya people;
- Guarantee women’s and civil society participation in all decision-making and political processes; and,
- Ensure transparency, accountability, the protection of the environment, and “free, prior and informed consent” processes for all economic investments, especially those in the extractive industries and essential services.
FBC-P called on President Aquino to urge President Thein Sein to heed his peoples’ calls, and to lead the strengthening of the relations of the Philippines and Burma (Myanmar) on the basis of supporting the true struggles of the peoples in Burma, one anchored on justice, democratization and the protection of human rights of all peoples.
“It is our hope that as the peoples of our two countries, Burma (Myanmar) and the Philippines, finds solidarity in their similar past; that our leaders also galvanize the relations of our peoples in this common vision of enduring peace and democracy,” Jun Santos of Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), also part of FBC-P, concluded.
The Philippines and Myanmar first established diplomatic relations in 1956 and will celebrate the 60th anniversary of their relations in 2016.