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Leaders set to admit Burma despite
- Subject: Leaders set to admit Burma despite
- From: ausgeo@xxxxxxx
- Date: Tue, 29 Apr 1997 21:19:00
Subject: Leaders set to admit Burma despite US ire
Monday, April 28, 1997 Sydney Morning Herld
Leaders set to admit Burma despite US ire
By MARK BAKER, Herald Correspondent in Bangkok
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
Thailand yesterday joined Malaysia and Indonesia in rejecting US calls to
stall Burma's membership of the seven-country Association of South East Asian
Nations (ASEAN) because of continuing human rights violations by Burma's
A meeting next month of regional foreign ministers is expected to endorse
Burma's 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
Burma's exclusion from ASEAN.
The State Department spokesman, Mr Nick Burns, confirmed in Washington that
the US, which has a dialogue partnership with ASEAN, was actively lobbying
regional governments on the issue: "We're trying to use our influence with the
ASEAN partners to make the point that Burma should be given 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 this year.
The tough 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 Burma's 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.
"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 neighbouring countries," the spokesman said. Malaysia, which
will host a series of meetings this year marking ASEAN's 30th anniversary, is
insisting that the deteriorating 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 Philippines - the most democratic of the ASEAN countries - is the only one
that so far has not directly rejected the US call to block Burma's membership.
The Philippine Foreign Minister, Mr Domingo Siazon, said yesterday that the US
position would be considered when regional ministers met in Kuala Lumpur on
Burma's democratic leader, Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, praised the US investment ban
and endorsed moves to keep the country out of ASEAN.
The Burmese leadership renewed calls for ASEAN to resist the US pressure.
"ASEAN will have to stick to its guns to show that nobody dictates to us," a
senior official said.