Press Release
December 3, 2011

Philippines, ASEAN Need to be with Myanmar
on Road to Democracy--Legarda

Senator Loren Legarda welcomes the process of democratization unfolding in Myanmar. "The doors for deeper engagement with Myanmar have been opened. Countries, including the Philippines, need to respond by extending support to the constructive reform efforts in Myanmar," Senator Legarda, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said.

Legarda was the first Philippine official who visited Aung San Suu Kyi when she was released from house arrest in November last year. Her two sons, joining her on the personal visit, were the first foreign youths who had called on the revered democratic icon after her release from house arrest.

"The encouraging developments in Myanmar inspire hope for a new future for Myanmar's people. The Philippines, as a fellow-member in ASEAN, needs to contribute to this engagement process and help build on the optimism created by the developments we have seen thus far. Certainly, the situation demands creative strategies for engaging not just the government of Myanmar, but also its people with the view to creating a shared understanding and effort toward securing democracy in Myanmar," Legarda added.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton conducted a three-day visit in Myanmar and delivered a message that the United States is ready to "lift punitive measures if the government builds upon moves to grant greater political freedoms." Clinton had met with Myanmar's president, Thein Sein, and separately with Suu Kyi. Clinton's visit is seen to help ease the international isolation of Myanmar. Over the past months, Myanmar's government has released hundreds of political prisoners, and eased censorship.

Suu Kyi, 66, has announced that she will rejoin the political system and run for parliament in a coming election. She will contest one of 48 vacant seats in parliament.

"I welcome the reported plans of Suu Kyi to run in the coming elections. This development speaks volumes in terms of renewed confidence. I hope the government of Myanmar will build on its constructive efforts by releasing its political prisoners so that they can, as well, be a part of the change process unfolding in this country. Myanmar is immensely blessed by a rich culture, warm people from diverse ethnic backgrounds, and natural resources to fuel its growth. There is no reason for it not to succeed if its remains on course on its road to democracy. The Philippines and ASEAN need to be with Myanmar on that road, Legarda added.

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