SBY could be Jokowi’s best envoy to Myanmar

SBY (right) played an important role in persuading Myanmar’s generals to ease their grip on the country. Jokowi (left) should forget his differences with the former president and appoint him as his special envoy to Myanmar, says the writer. — AFP

“RASAIN LU” (that’s what you get) – the popular slang phrase will be likely uttered by many Indonesians in response to the military’s toppling of Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

They have shown their dislike of the Nobel Peace laureate for her lack of an appetite to help the Muslim ethnic Rohingya minority and her reluctance to get closer to Indonesian leaders.

I do not believe President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has any hard feelings against his counterpart. After all Indonesia should take a leading role, along with other Asean neighbours, in rescuing Myanmar from the military dictatorship. Helping Myanmar in this time of need could be a good chance for Asean to push for a win-win solution to the prolonged suffering of the Rohingya. More importantly, Myanmar should carry on with its democratisation after decades of military rule. Former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) came to mind when I heard the news about the current situation in Myanmar.

As a former Army general and the country’s sixth president, SBY convinced Myanmar’s generals of the benefits of letting civilians control the government. The generals were impressed by the Indonesian model of the military’s “dual function” under Suharto, as well as his focus on economic development.

Like it or not, SBY played an important role in persuading Myanmar’s generals to ease their grip on the country. Of course, they still maintain most of the privileges they have enjoyed for decades.

Jokowi reportedly often felt irritated by SBY, who on some occasions appeared to give the impression to the public that he was smarter and wiser than his successor. Forget these differences, at least for a while. I suggest Jokowi ask SBY to serve as his special envoy to Myanmar if he really intends to contribute to a solution to the Myanmar cause. Myanmar’s generals need to be convinced that a coup could be suicidal for them and they should put the country back on the path to full democracy.

Of course, the generals could say they were emulating their counterparts in Thailand, who have the penchant for coups.

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. Jokowi needs only to give SBY the freedom and trust to do whatever he thinks necessary for the success of his mission.

Jokowi could also consider the fourth president of Indonesia, Megawati Soekarnoputri, for the mission to Myanmar and try to talk to Suu Kyi. Both Megawati and Suu Kyi are daughters of independence heroes and victims of military oppression. Unfortunately, I have not seen any chemistry between these two ladies.

Suu Kyi has underestimated the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) from the very beginning, probably because of the group’s defense of Myanmar’s military regime and its lack of effort in pressuring the military junta to release her from imprisonment and to respect her party’s victory in general elections in the past.

Even when she became the de facto leader of Myanmar, Suu Kyi was reluctant to follow the Asean tradition of an introductory visit to each Asean member.

She cancelled her visit to Jakarta in 2016 after a group of Indonesian Muslims vowed to greet her with a rally against abuses of Rohingya Muslims by Myanmar’s military and militia groups.

Suu Kyi has not hidden her dislike for Malaysia either, whose leaders have harshly criticised the atrocities.

In fact, she condones the discrimination against the Rohingya only to please the generals and the Buddhist-majority nation, but she has gained nothing from this approach.

Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her tireless efforts to fight the military’s abuses against the people and to restore human rights in her country. But she humiliated herself when, during an International Court of Justice session in The Hague in December 2019, she denied the charges of genocide and atrocities levelled against the military. She instead blamed a Muslim militia for provocative acts of terrorism against the government of Myanmar.

Touted as an icon of democracy and human rights in the past, Suu Kyi became part of a regime that oppresses minority groups just because they are different from the majority of Myanmar.

Still it is no surprise that the heightened tensions between Myanmar’s government and Armed Forces chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing have ended in a military coup.

Suu Kyi and the general have not gotten along from the very beginning. Last month, the general had already warned that he could “revoke” the country’s constitution if the military was not satisfied with the government’s answer to the military’s allegations of mass cheating in the November elections, which Suu Kyi’s party won by landslide.

Before it’s too late, I call on President Jokowi to meet with Pak SBY and request that he become his special advisor and envoy on the Myanmar issue. I think such a collaboration between the two statesmen will be beneficial for Myanmar and our nation. — Jakarta Post/ANN

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