[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

ASEAN to defy US on seat for Burma.

		ASEAN to defy US on seat for Burma

	South-East Asian governments are closing ranks in defiance of 
United States pressure to block the imminent admission of Burma to full 
membership of their regional alliance.

	Thailand yesterday joined Malaysia and Indonesia in rejecting US 
calls to stall Burmese membership of the seven-country Association of 
South-East Asian Nations because of continuing human rights violations by 
Burma's military regime.

	A meeting next month of regional foreign ministers is expected to 
endorse Burmese entry to ASEAN by as early as July.

	The US, which last week banned new American investment in Burma, 
stepped up its attack on the regime at the weekend by making its first 
public call for Burmese exclusion from ASEAN.

	A State Department spokesman, Mr Nicholas Burns, confirmed in 
Washington that the US, which has a dialogue partnership with ASEAN, was 
lobbying regional governments on the issue to give Burma "a stiff message 
that it's not welcome".

	But in a sign that the Burma issue could seriously strain 
relations between the US and the region, ASEAN leaders are signalling 
that they will stick to their plans to admit Burma, Cambodia and Laos to 
the grouping later this year.

	The tough new US stand will further highlight Australia's 
reluctance to confront regional governments on human rights issues. The 
Federal Government last week refused to join the US investment ban.

	A spokesman for the Thai Foreign Ministry yesterday flatly 
rejected any delay in Burmese admission to ASEAN.

	"Whatever happens, Thailand maintains its standpoint to support 
Burma in becoming a member of ASEAN because we have already made the 
decision," the spokesman said. "We accept the right of the US to declare 
this, but Thailand also has the right to its position... Thailand must 
always be careful and sincere in its relations with neighboring countries."

	Malaysia, which will host meetings later this year marking 
ASEAN's 30th anniversary, is insisting that the seteriorating political 
situation in Burma should not be used to delay membership. Indonesia, 
Singapore and Vietnam have also opposed the US investment ban and 
reaffirmed their support for ASEAN's policy of "constructive engagement" 
- under which regional governments are expanding economic and political 
links in the hope of encouraging political reform in Burma.

	The Phillippine - the most democratic of the ASEAN countries - 
has not directly rejected the US call to block Burmese membership.

	The Burmese democracy leader, Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, praised the US 
investment ban and endorsed moves to keep the country out of ASEAN.

	Ms Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy won a landslide 
election victory in 1991 but was barred from taking power by the 
military, said human rights violations had worsened in Burma over the 
past six months. The Burmese leadership renewed calls for ASEAN to resist 
the US pressure.

[By Mark Baker, South-East Asia correspondent, Bangkok, 
Sunday, 27 April 1997].