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S-E Asian neighbours defy US on Bur

Subject: S-E Asian neighbours defy US on Burma ban.

		S-E Asian neighbours defy US on Burma ban

	South-East Asian nations stood defiant in the face of US pressure 
at the weekend over Washington's call to reject Burma's application for 
membership of the Association of South-East Asian Nations.

	Following on from last week's attack by the Malaysia Prime 
Minister, Dr Mahathir, on what he called US interference, Vietnam and 
Thailand also closed ranks behind Burma.

	Without mentioning the US by name, the Vietnamese Foreign 
Ministry said Burma's entry into ASEAN was "cpmpletely ASEAN's affairs".

	"The exertion of pressure or hindrance" to only unfavourable to 
the image and interests of the interfering country in South-East Asia", 
the minitry said.

	Thai government officials indicated US efforts would be unlikely 
to sway Thailand.

	"Whatever happens, Thailand maintains its standpoint to support 
Burma in becoming a member of ASEAN because we have already made the 
decision," a spokesman for rhe Foreign Minister, Mr Tinkorn Kanasuta, said.

	"Thailand and the US have different points of view," the 
spokesman said. "We have a strong policy of non-interference in the 
internal affairs of neighbouring countries."

	US State Department spokesman Mr Nicholas Burns said in 
Washington on Friday that the US was "trying to use our influence to make 
the point that Burma should be given a stiff message that it not welcome".

	It followed the announcement last Tuesday of a US ban on new 
investment in Burma by US businesses, citing the military regime's 
authoritarian tactics, in particular its attempt to silence Nobel peace 
prize winner Ms Aung San Suu Kyi.

	"Burma's human rights performance is so woeful, so irresponsible, 
that surely it should not be treated as a normal country. It should not 
be rewarded by membership in one of the most pestigious and important 
pan-Asian organisations," Mr Burns said.

	Burma's official English-language New Light of Myanmar newspaper 
said yesterday that Washington had got itself "in a pickle" over its 
decision to impose sanctions on Burma, which it said had fallen flat 
after Rangoon was assured of ASEAN backing.

	The paper said in an editorial that Washington had been trying to 
wield its influence through the threat of sanctions and had been forced 
to carry it out rather than lose face by backing down.

	Dr Mahathir, whose country chairs the association, said last week 
that US sanctions would not affect the drive for Burma's membership. He 
also made a characteristic attack on the US, mocking its notion of a 
"free world".

	"I don't like people telling me who I should have as my friend 
and who should be my enemy," he said.

	Burma is expected to become a full member of ASEAN - which groups 
Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, The Phillippine, Singapore, Thailand and 
Vietnam - later this year despite US and European objections.

	Singapore has also said that US sanctions will not affect Burma's 
entry into ASEAN, which maintains a strict policy of non-interference in 
the internal affairs of other countries.

	ASEAN agreed last year to admit Burma, Cambodia and Laos as full 
members simulataneously, without specifying the timing.

	In Kuala Lumpur, an ASEAN affairs analysist said he did not 
believe the group would bow to US pressure on Burma.

	"ASEAN will not back out of their support for Burma's entry," 
said Mr. M. Rajendran from the University of Malaysia. "ASEAN's stance is 
clear. They want the whole of South-East Asia to be in the regional group 
to enhance regional stability."

	But he warned that ASEAN may lose US goodwill if the protest was 
ignored. "Some ASEAN countries depend on US goodwill for trade and 
investments, in particular Indonesia and Philippine," he said.

[AFP, By correspondents in Rangoon, Hanoi and Bangkok,
28 April 1997].