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Indonesia democracy lesson for Myanmar minister

Written by: Staff

Jakarta, Mar 17: Myanmar's foreign minister is to visit Indonesia next month as part of efforts by the military junta to implement its controversial ''roadmap to democracy'', an Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman said today (Mar 17, 2006).

Desra Percaya also said Indonesia, itself ruled for decades by an autocratic military-linked government, has formed a joint commission with Myanmar to discuss the seven-stage roadmap, proposed by the junta in 2003.

The plan has been criticised as inadequate by some analysts, while others say the junta is moving too slowly to implement it.

''We were once an authoritarian country under the military and that's what Myanmar is now. With our experiences we can offer them to Myanmar to follow or we could offer them the lessons we learned in the past,'' Percaya said at the ministry's weekly media briefing.

He said the foreign ministers' meeting would take place in late April on Indonesia's holiday island of Bali.

''This would be part of the effort for us to engage with Myanmar and help Myanmar to successfully implement the roadmap to democracy, especially the pledged seven steps,'' he added.

The meeting follows up a high-profile visit by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to the secretive nation earlier this month in which the former general pledged assistance to Myanmar on reforms and democratisation.

Percaya said the joint commission is expected to help Myanmar open up to the outside world.

''If we become harder on Myanmar then they would close themselves even more,'' he added.

During a visit this week to Indonesia, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice lashed out at Myanmar's human rights record and discussed her concerns with Indonesian officials.

Indonesia broke from decades of authoritarian rule in 1998 to begin its own transition to democracy, and Yudhoyono became its first directly elected president in 2004.

Indonesia has been more vocal in its criticism of the Myanmar government than other ASEAN countries, some whom are themselves one-party states or relatively authoritarian.

Myanmar's military ignored a landslide election victory in 1990 by the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi, and has continued to rule the country with an iron fist.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Laureate, has been in jail or under house arrest since May 2003.


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