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EVANS AT ODDS WITH ASEAN ON BURMA
By Ron Corben in Bangkok
THe Australian July 23-24
The minister for Foreign Afffairs, Senator Evans, is set to become
embroiled in the row over Burma's participation in the present regional
foreign ministers meeting, an issue which now looks set to dominate the
high profile event.
Burma's presence at the Association of South-East Asian Nations
ministerial meeting and regional security forum has triggered sharp
regional divisions between ASEAN and its dialogue partners such as
Australia, the US and the European Community.
Australia and the US have criticised the invitation to Rangoon, which
stands accused of widespread human rights abuses since the military junta
came to power in 1988.
But the host government, Thailand , yesterday vigorously defended its
"constructive engagenent policy " in inviting Burma, and the representative
of the Rangoon regime said there was " no human rights problem at all".
The meeting is set against a backdrop of the United Nations' call for talks
between the junta and the UN to assist in national reconciliation and
improvement of human rights.
Senator Evans faces additional strains in the Australian Thai relationship
after the deportation of three foreign participants two of whom are
Australian passport holders from a human rights conference in Bangkok.
THE Australians are lawyer and film maker Mr Frank Coorey and Ms Margherita
Tracanelli, a spokeswoman for the East Timorese resistance group led by Mr
Jose Ramos Horta, who holds dual Italiam and Australian passports.
The deportation by Thai authorities went ahead despite protests by the
Australian embassy in Bangkok.
Thai police accused the three of breaching visa conditions after they
allegedly met Burmese ethnic miniority leaders inside Burma earlier this
The ASEAN ministerial meeting opened yesterday with the Thai Prime Minister
Chaun saying human rights violations should be part of the ASEAN political
The six nation meetimg continues next week with the ASEAN regional forum
on security, which will include discussion on the future of Burma.
Thailand has strongly defended its strategy of constructive enganement with
Burma with Mr Chauan saying Bangkok was sincere and serious about
Thai government spokesman Mr Abhist Vejjajiva told The Australian it was
the correct strategy to allow Burma to participate the forum.
"This would enable Rangoon to be aware of the international community's view
of how other nations are conducting their business," Mr Abhist said.
"We feel that going back on this strategy - moving towards alienation,
moving towards isolation - would not be beneficial.
"Inded, if we look back into history, Myanmar (Burma) hasbeen isolated for
a long time with no progress at all," he said.
"We also feel that we would like to see changes. We would like to see
changes more rapidly, but it's a question of how to go about bringing about
But a representative from the Burmese delegation, Mr U Kym Mong Win, told
media at the conference that human rights were not an issue in Burma.
"We have no human rights problem, and if you went to Myanmar you would see
yourself that there are no problem there at all.," Mr U Kym said.
The mounting rift between the ASEAN group and its key dialogue partners
comes as Burmese junta said it was prepared begin talks with UN
secretary-general Dr Boutros-Ghali.
But Mr U Kym, while confirming proposal, added no date had been set for the
start of negotiations.
The UN's proposal had been raised in talks between the Thai Foreign
Minister, Mr Prasong Soonsiri, and Burma's Foreign Minister, Mr Ohn Gyaw.
The UN representative for the secretary-general of the Social Economic
Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Mr Rafeeudin Ahmad, had travelled to
Rangoon in march in talks with junta.