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News: August 10

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===== item =====
10 AUGUST 1995, The Nation
The Burmese military junta surprisingly announced its desire to become an
Asean observer. Yindee Lertcharoenchok looks at this crucial stage of Burma at
a political crossroads.
With Burma's accession to the 1976 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation last month,
Asean members are jubilant that their founding father's dream of seeing a 10-
member Southeast Asian grouping is finally materializing before the turn of
the century.
 Asean members belive that the five year time frame is a reasonable possibil
ity as Vietnam has just become a full member, with Laos and Cambodia expected
to head in the same direction as both have been granted observer status.
 It has been the dream of our founding fathers that there will eventually be
an Asean 10. I would like to see it happen by the turn of the century. There
are still five years to work on this. It is possible,  said Malaysian Foreign
Ministry Permanent Secretary Ahmad Kamil Jaafar in Kuala Lumpur on the eve of
the annual Asean Ministerial Meeting in Brunei last month.
In early July, the Burmese junta instructed its ambassador to Indonesia to
inform the Asean Secretariat Office in Jakarta of its wish to become an
observer at Asean.
At the same time, Burmese Foreign Minister U Ohn Gyaw informed his counter
part, Prince Mohamed Bolkiah of Brunei, who chaired the Asean meeting, of
Rangoon's decision to accede to the Asean treaty. By tradition, this
automatically gives a treaty partner an observer status in Asean.
With no prior hint, Asean countries were caught off guard by the sudden
decision of the ruling Burmese State Law and Order Restoration Council
(Slorc). They were even more surprised to hear about the Slorc's unconditional
release on July 10 of its  arch enemy  and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu
Kyi, who had spent nearly six years under house arrest.
Upon arrival in Brunei on July 27, U Ohn Gyaw presented to Prince Bolkiah
Slorc's  instrument of accession  to the Bali Treaty. However, Asean members
decided to stand by their previous decision to have Ohn Gyaw attend the Asean
forum as  guest of the host country.  During the Asean meeting in July last
year, he also represented his country as guest of Thailand.
In principle, Asean foreign ministers agreed that Burma would officially enjoy
observer status at their annual gathering next year in Indonesia.
Slorc's abrupt but deliberate move to associate itself with Asean is not
without hidden motives when one takes into account its refusal to join
Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand when they founded
the grouping in 1967.
Since Burma's independence in 1948 after 62 years of British colonial rule,
successive governments_ parliamentary and military_ have strictly adhered to 
neutrality  in foreign policy partly due to its strategic geopolitical
location as a country that borders two Asian giants, China and India.
They also adopted the concept of five principles of peaceful coexistence
proclaimed at the Afro-Asian Conference in Bandung, Indonesia in April, 1955
where Burma was one of the key participants.
The Bandung Declaration, which has served as the basic principle of Burma's
foreign relations with countries across the globe, calls for mutual respect
for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non-aggression
and non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equally and mutual
benefits, and peaceful coexistence.
When the Revolutionary Council of Gen Ne Win seized power on March 2, 1962, it
announced Burma's  adherence to a policy of positive neutrality,  guaranteeing 
the continuity of existing cordial relations with all countries. 
Burma's  neutrality  was well recognized, especially at the height of the Cold
War in Southeast Asia. During that rough and tough period, the country avoided
suspicion from both the Communist world and the  free world  by refusing to
align itself with either camps and keeping itself apart from regional
associations, including Asean, which it considered as a staunchly anti-
communist, pro-Western apparatus and lackey of American imperialism in the
In Sept 1979, Burma withdrew from the Non-Aligned Movement (Nam), citing the
violations of the Movement's basic principles, including the emergence of some 
active factions  within the organization, the use of force by some members for
the settlement of disputes and interference in the internal affairs of others.
Only after the Cold War over did Burma seek to restore its Nam membership.
Senior Thai government officials and some Asean diplomats share the view that
Burma would not rush to become a full member of Asean and that the status of
observer would sufficiently serve, at least for the time being, its internal
and external interests, politically and economically.
Unlike Vietnam and the two other Indochinese countries, Burma's integration
into the Southeast Asian club would be a  cautious gradual  process.
As an observer, Burma would be able to enjoy distant relations with Asean,
which has yet to set a new post-Cold War policy direction and principles,
while earning global acceptance, recognition and legitimacy from the
grouping's growing international prominence.
Slorc knows that Asean is a good steeping stone into the global arena and that
it can easily pass the test with full regional recognition. The Burmese regime
is confident that, as an observer, its self-interests would not be hurt and
Asean can always be relied upon to stand up to deflect and challenge Western
pressure and criticism of Slorc's poor human rights records and refusal to
initiate democratic reforms.
The benefits also include the invitation to attend separate annual meetings of
Asean foreign and economic ministers and , more importantly, the two-year-old
Asean Regional Forum (ARF) where Asean and its dialogue partners from the
world's developed economies hold talks on political, security and defence
matters in Asia and the Pacific.
Several ARF members, particularly the West, have identifies Burma and the
Spratly islands as the  two potential hot spots  in Southeast Asia. They have
also commissioned studies to seek preventive measures against a possible
violent scenario..
Slorc has clearly timed and used the release of Suu Kyi and its appropriate
association with Asean to neutralize international outrage and backlash. The
stunning release of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner was not only a domestic
agenda but a global requirement and Slorc maximized its effects to its utmost
While Burma realizes its inevitable integration into Asean, Slorc has
absolutely no desire or proven sincerity, at least for now, to be a full
member of Asean. Although Vietnam's entry last month meant the official ending
of ideological hostilities in the grouping, Burma has always pursued a more
global outlook and prefers to associate itself with the United Nations or the
Non-Aligned Movement where its interests and presence are best served and
Asean diplomats believe that while Burma would have less difficulty than the
three Indochinese status, it would study and watch Vietnam's integration in
Asean closely. Unlike Cambodia and Laos, Burma has not publicly announced or
committed itself to becoming an Asean member, they noted.
Slorc is fully aware that before becoming an Asean member, it would be
required to fulfill certain criteria and obligations, although exceptions are
possible like in the case of Vietnam requesting a three-year grace period
before it fully joins the Asean Free Trade Area.
Among other requirements, Burma has to carry out internal administrative,
structural and even policy reforms and preparations to cope with intensive
Asean political and economic activities - around 200 meeting yearly, huge
expenses and an annual US$ million membership contribution.
It also has to conform to numerous Asean rulers and regulations as well as the
grouping's principles and stance towards various international issues which
Burma, with its global neutrality image, could find itself reluctant to commit
Although Asean countries have tried to assure Rangoon that membership into
Asean will not be gauged on the basis of the political situation there, Slorc
knows that unless it improves its human rights records and implements further
political reforms, its efforts to normalize relations with the world
community, and come into association with Asean, will not be without
Suu Kyi's release was warmly welcomed internationally, but the move does not
translate into any political reform in Burma. Slorc has not projected a
softened or reconciliation stance towards the pro-democracy movement or ethnic
guerilla forces.
before Burma is fully welcomed with open arms as a member, Asean has to make
sure that Slorc accomplishes the other fundamental international requirements
stated in successive annual UN resolutions. This includes the release of all
political detainees, respects of human rights, freedom of access to political
prisoners by the International Committee for the Red Cross, and progress
towards dialogue and national reconciliation with the country's pro-democracy
and ethnic movements. (TN)

===== item =====
10 August 1995, THE NATION

THE Burmese junta on Tuesday ordered the abrupt closure of five temporary
border checkpoints between Tachilek and Thailand's Mae Sai district, and
threatened a six-month jail term for anyone caught illegally crossing into

Thai merchants and the Mae Sai Chamber of Fem Traders said the closure will
badly affect the town's already poor economy. It relies on border trade and
local tourism.

Chamber president Pichai Kongsricharoen said he did not know why the ruling
State Law and Order Restoration Council had closed the checkpoints, which were
opened last month by Chiang Rai officials to facilitate and tourism.

He said Slorc had threatened to jail people who illegally crossed the border
for six months without bail or visitation rights.

The closure was made without warning. Pichi said Mae Sai's whole economy was
damaged when Slorc closed the official Tachilek-Mae Sai crossing early this
year, after a dawn raid on Tachilek by opium warlord Khun Sa's Mong Tai Army.



10 August 1995, THE NATION

BURMESE dissident Aung San Suu Kyi will send a videotape address to the non-
governmental forum on women in Beijing this month, the chairwoman for the
conference said yesterday.

Aung San Suu Kyi agreed to record a message for the conference, which beings
on Aug 30, after having turned down an invitation to attend the forum, which
precedes the UN world women's conference, Supatra Masdit told reporters in

The Burmese dissident was invited to attend the meeting by the UN organizers,
but declined, saying she was not yet prepared to travel outside Burma.

Suu Kyi would talk about her political struggle and describe her experience up
to her release from almost six years of house arrest on July 10, said Supatra,
a Thai MP.

We want her to talk about her inspirations, her belief in talking a political
role for the world's women, she said.

She will also tell of her experiences, which will benefit women who wish to
take a political role- especially for dissident movements fighting undemo
cratic forces, Supatra said.

Burma has announced that it will send an official delegation to the Beijing
forum. (TN)