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U.S. Presses ASEAN Not To Admit Mya

Subject: U.S. Presses ASEAN Not To Admit Myanmar


WASHINGTON (Reuter) The United States came out Friday in open opposition to
Myanmar joining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, and
stated it was lobbying the group to drop a proposal to admit Yangon this year. 

"We don't believe that ASEAN should take this step," State Department
spokesman Nicholas Burns said. His comments appeared to step up
long-standing Western unhappiness about the plan to admit Myanmar, where
Washington banned new U.S. investments Tuesday with fresh sanctions over the
human rights record of the military rulers in Yangon.

The U.S. charge d'affaires in Myanmar, Kent Wiedemann, said in an interview'
Thursday that while Washington would find it "awkward" to deal with an ASEAN
that included Myanmar its admission was "something ASEAN has to decide for

ASEAN, founded in 1967 to promote regional economic, social and cultural
cooperation, comprises Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines,
Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The group is expected to admit Myanmar,
Cambodia and Laos in July. 

 "The United States has very strong concerns about the proposal by ASEAN to
bring in Burma (former name of Myanmar)," Burns said. "We have no objection
as to Laos and Cambodia. We have an objection to Burma." We're trying to use
our influence with the ASEAN partners to make the point that Burma should he
given a stiff message that it's not welcome." Burns added. "I have no idea
at this point what action ASEAN will take. 

The United States and other Western countries criticize Myanmar for human
rights abuses and for failing to recognize the 1990 election victory of the
opposition National League for Democracy, or NLD, led by Nobel Peace
laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. "Burma's human rights performance is so woeful,
so irresponsible, that surely it should not be treated as normal country and
should not be rewarded by membership in one of the most prestigious and
important pan-Asian organizations, with which the United States is
affiliated," Burns said.

 Even before the investment ban, the United States halted direct financial
assistance and blocked much international aid to Myanmar since the State Law
and Order Restoration Council. or SLORC, took over there in 1988. 

But U.S. attempts to rally Asian countries against Myanmar have had little
success. ASEAN opposes interference in the domestic politics of neighboring
states and members say "constructive engagement" will work better than

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia, the current chairman of ASEAN,
said Wednesday the latest U.S. sanctions would not delay Myanmar's entry
into the grouping. The issue of admission of Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos is
expected to be discussed at an ASEAN foreign ministers meeting May 31 in
Kuala Lumpur.


BANGKOK (Reuter) Myanmar urged Saturday its neighbors in resist pressure
from the United States aimed at preventing Yangon's entry into the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, this year.

"ASEAN will have to stick is guns to show that nobody dictates to us, a
government official said. "Generally. we believe if ASEAN gives in this
time, then ASEAN will have to give in every time.'


MANILA (Reuter)-The Philippines said on Saturday that the seven-nation ASEAN
group would next month discuss plans to admit Burma as a member despite the
opposition of the United States. Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon, reacting
to a U.S. call on Friday for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to
drop plans to admit Rangoon, said it was "normal" for governments to lobby
others to support their views. 

Commenting on the U.S. sanctions and opposition to Burma's entry to ASEAN,
Siazon told reporters: "Normally, among countries, you lobby each other
trying to convince them to adopt to your position. That's normal but of
course we have taken note of their action."