Analysts Urge Indonesia to Once Again Nudge Myanmar Toward Democracy — Radio Free Asia

This week’s army coup in Myanmar has prompted requires Jakarta to once more tackle the mantle of regional position mannequin to assist its neighbor again on the trail to democracy.

Myanmar as soon as appeared to Indonesia – which navigated its personal transition from dictatorship to democracy – for steering in democratizing after a long time of army rule, however these interactions waned after a change of presidency in Jakarta, analysts mentioned.

The man who performed a major position in Myanmar’s democratic transition was Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, or “SBY,” Indonesia’s first instantly elected president, and himself a former common.

Yudhoyono helped mediate conflicts between the Myanmar authorities and ethnic minorities, supplied enter on drafting democratic legal guidelines and invited officers to study democratic establishments, mentioned the chief director of the Bali Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD), I Ketut Putra Erawan.

“Under SBY, democracy was high on Indonesia’s diplomatic agenda, which in my view was a very positive thing,” Ketut mentioned.

Indonesia had been a task mannequin for Myanmar, he mentioned.

“Indonesia now has a responsibility to help restore democracy [there].”

When present President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was elected in July 2014, he declared that his focus can be on home affairs, in accordance to Aaron L. Connelly, a Southeast Asia professional on the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a British analysis institute.

Jokowi “is new to foreign affairs and seemingly has little interest in diplomacy, a marked contrast with his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who sought a role as an international statesman,” Connelly wrote in an article for Contemporary Southeast Asia in April 2015.

SBY’s legacy

By most accounts, Yudhoyono made Indonesia an influence to reckon with in worldwide affairs by eagerly providing to share his nation’s experiences in democratic transition.

For occasion, as early as in 2007, he despatched retired General Agus Widjojo to attend the funeral of army man Soe Win, who had been Myanmar prime minister.

In the Nineteen Nineties, Widjojo had urged his erstwhile colleagues to push Indonesia’s army dictator General Suharto to make the transition to democracy. Suharto dominated for nearly 32 years, till 1998.

But whereas in Myanmar, Widjojo didn’t give the army brass a lecture on democracy.

Just the presence of an Indonesian army reformer  “was the message,” in accordance to a paper by Jeff Kingston, a professor of Asian politics at Tokyo’s Temple University, cited by The Sydney Morning Herald.

Dipo Alam, a cupboard secretary through the Yudhoyono administration, described how the previous president advised the United States how to take care of Myanmar.

“The best thing I remember, Mr. SBY drove home the message to the U.S. not to dictate to and hector Myanmar and treat them as a child. SBY explained that democracy took time and asked the U.S. to respect the process,” Dipo advised BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated on-line information service.

Yudhoyono went on to intently advise Myanmar’s army, particularly after General Thein Sein’s authorities unveiled a technique for democratic reforms in 2011.

By distinction, Jokowi took nearly two weeks to formally congratulate Myanmar after the 2015 common election.

Jokowi ought to now appoint Yudhoyono as Indonesia’s envoy to Myanmar, Jakarta Post’s govt editor, Kornelius Purba, advised in an opinion piece printed earlier than Monday’s army coup.

“Myanmar’s generals need to be convinced that a coup could be suicidal for them and that it would derail the country’s path to democracy,” Purba wrote.

“A figure like SBY, known as one of the key figures behind the Indonesian military’s reform, is the right person to approach the generals.”

A file picture of then-Myanmar President Thein Sein (left) along with his Indonesian counterpart Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, May 5, 2011.

‘Indonesia does not lecture’

Indonesia, too, has seen democratic backsliding below Jokowi’s management, in accordance to a ebook titled “Democracy in Indonesia: From Stagnation to Regression?” printed final yr and written by numerous students from Indonesia and overseas.

The Jokowi administration has to a level suppressed free speech and criticism and in addition tried to undermine checks and balances on authorities energy, the students argued within the ebook.

Still, it stays one of many area’s most open international locations and should act on Myanmar, mentioned Damar Juniarto, govt director of the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet), an NGO advocating for web freedom.

“Our freedom of expression is not perfect, it is even deteriorating, but compared to other ASEAN countries, we are still better off. We should still be able to play an extra role,” Damar advised BenarNews.

For occasion, Malaysia has an unelected authorities and is below its first nationwide emergency in additional than 5 a long time.

In Thailand, Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-cha grew to become prime minister after a coup he engineered, after which retained the submit in a 2019 common election extensively considered as rigged.

Opposition leaders within the Philippines say that Duterte has elevated the facility of the army and police since taking workplace in 2016. And Brunei is a sultanate.

For Eva Kusuma Sundari, a former lawmaker who chaired the ASEAN Parliamentary Caucus on Myanmar, Indonesia was the one hope as different ASEAN member international locations like Vietnam and Thailand have pledged not to intervene.

Non-interference in member international locations’ home affairs is a foundational precept of ASEAN.

“Indonesia, despite criticism at home, still has leverage because it’s still relatively more democratic than the others,” mentioned Eva.

“We still hope that Indonesia will be at the forefront to influence other ASEAN countries to act.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah mentioned Indonesia didn’t want to hold forth about democracy.

“Indonesia does not lecture any country about democracy. Besides, the mainstreaming of democratic values has been a common agenda item at ASEAN,” Faizasyah advised BenarNews.

Still, Indonesia expressed deep concern concerning the army coup in Myanmar in a press release Monday that urged the nation to embrace rule of regulation, good governance, democratic rules and a constitutional authorities.

Faizasyah mentioned Indonesia was attempting to forge a typical stance on Myanmar at ASEAN, however he didn’t elaborate.

Chinese affect

Myanmar may gravitate much more towards China if pressured, mentioned Priyambudi Sulistiyanto, a Southeast Asia professional at Flinders University in Australia.

Myanmar has shut ties with China, and depends on it for funding amid worldwide isolation over its therapy of the Rohingya ethnic minority, he mentioned.

“If pressure on this new military regime is too strong, there’s a fear that they will turn to China,” Priyambudi mentioned in a web-based dialogue on Myanmar on Thursday.

“The West may take a harder line on China. But in Asia, we cannot ignore China’s immense power, so there should be more creative measures.”

Indonesia may suggest that ASEAN ship a delegation to maintain talks with Myanmar’s army rulers, IPD’s Ketut mentioned. 

“Don’t isolate Myanmar, because doing so will make China’s influence stronger. And we must remember, for China, democracy takes a back seat to business.”

Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated on-line information service.

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