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Surin rejects committee's call to push Burma toward democracy
The Nation, p.A2
December 28, 1993
It would be out of character for Asean's Inter-Parliamentary
Organization (IPO) to attempt to interfere in Burma's internal
affairs as urged by a House of Representatives
committee, Deputy Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwin said yesterday.
"IPO is usually concerned more with drug suppression and the
welfare of the elderly. I have never seen it become involved in the
internal affairs of other countries," Surin said.
The House committee on justice and human rights earlier this
months sent a letter opposing Burma's membership in the Association
of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to its
parliamentary counterparts in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines
and Malaysia. Asean's sixth member, Brunei, has no parliament.
The letter called for agreement on three preconditions to
Burma's membership in the regional grouping: the immediate and
unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political
prisoners, the cessation of political repression and violations of
the rights of minorities, and a guarantee od peace and safety for
all minority groups.
"It is absolutely right for the committee to express an
opinion on the Burma issue, and the administrative body of Asean
would not interfere in the work of its legislative body," Surin
"However, I wonder how much weight the call will have on the
deliberations of the respective governments."
The military rulers of Rangoon, officially the State Law and
Order Restoration Council, have not responded formally to an
invitation to attend the Asean annual forum in Bangkok in
Foreign Minister Prasong Soonsiri, who will chair the
meeting, has insisted that Burma have the right to be represented.
Surin said the democratization process in Burma was an
internal affair and would proceed at its own pace, and other
countries should not attempt to intervene.
Asean governments would still discuss the question of Burma
attending the April meeting. It was Asean policy to forge
relationships with non-member countries in the region.
Non-members can attend Asean meetings as "guests", in which case a
consensus among Asean members is not needed. But an "observer"
status for non-members will require a consensus from
the members. For the observer a non-member country can be upgraded
into a full member if approved by all Asean governments.