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"Burma in debate."


	Debate between Western and South-East Asian nations over the future of 
	Burma's involvement in regional affairs is set to heat up with calls 
	from Thailand for the Rangoon regime to gain a seat at a key venue.

	Burma's inclusion within the security dialogue group, the ASEAN 
	Regional Forum should be "unconditional" as Rangoon moves to membership
	of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, Thai Foreign Minister,
 	Mr Kasem Kasemsri, said.

	Mr Kasem's comments are set to deepen divisions within the ARF between 
	the ASEAN member states and dialogue partners, largely from the West, 
	over Burma's human rights and democratic policies.

	ARF was formed in 1994 and is aimed at providing a venue for discussion 
	of security issues and is held in conjunction with annual ASEAN foreign 
	ministerial meetings.

	In comments reported by the Bangkok Post newspaper, Mr Kasem said "some 
	might object, but we in ASEAN think that it's necessary that all our 
	members and all those eligible to become members are in the ARF, 

	"Who participates in the ARF is a matter for ASEAN to decide," he said.

	Western States, especially the United States, the European Union and 
	Australia have cautioned ASEAN over including Burma as a full member 
	within the regional association of nations.

	Mr Kasem, who was speaking to reporters prior to a three-day official 
	visit to The Philippines, said the moves would reflect Burma's steps 
	towards ASEAN membership.

	"The ARF addresses only those issues relevant to us, East Asia and 
	Asia-Pacific, and no other areas," Mr kasem said. "If we can play that 
	role, an important role, it will not only benefit ourselves but also 
	contribute to the world community as a whole," he said.

	A Thai foreign ministry spokesman told The Australian he was unable to 
	immediately corroborate the comments of Mr Kasem.

	"Our position so far, is that ASEAN would welcome Burma as it has been 
	with Vietnam and Laos," the spokesman said.

	ASEAN member States include Thailand, malaysia, The Philippine, 
	Singapore, Indoesia, Brunei and more recently, Vietnam.

	ARF includes the ASEAN "dialogue" partners - the US, Canada, Australia, 
	New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, and the European Union.

	ASEAN members at the summit in December in Bangkok agreed to press for 
	inclusion of Cambodia, Laos and Burma within the ASEAN fold by the year 

	Burma - vilified by the West for its human rights record - has attended 
	the recent ASEAN foreign ministers' meetings as "guest of the host" in 
	order to overcome the diplomatic sensitivities.

	[By RON CORBEN in Bangkok, 04.05.96].