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Organization: Forum for Democracy and Human Rights
Date: Fri, 4 Oct 1996 18:18:42 +0000
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Subject: The Indian Newspaper
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ASEAN may have to review Myanmar policy
from V . jayanth
(The Hindu Oct. 3, 1996)
SINGAPORE , Oct , 2 :The differences in the association of southeast Asian
Nations (ASEAN ) on the Myanmar issue have surfaced in the open . Even as
the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Mr. Ali Alatas, said in Jakarta today that no
decision had been taken on Myanmar's application for membership of ASEAN,
the Philippine president, Mr. Fidel Ramos, said in Manila that the association
would have to review its Myanmar's policy.
Mr. Alatas denied reports that an informal meeting of ASEAN Foreign
Ministers in New York, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, had
decided to defer a decision on Myanmar's application for membership. He said
the first informal summit of ASEAN leaders, to be held later this year in Jakarta,
could consider the question.
Mr. Ramos issued a statement suggesting a review in ASEAN's Myanmar
policy. He wanted Yangoon's admission to be linked to the military junta's
progress in economic and political liberalisation progress. The Philippines
president also indicated that the leader's summit in Jakarta could consider the
issue and decide on the linkage question. His concern were for Humanrights,
political space and the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement.
Political analysts in the region considered this as the first manifestation of
differences within ASEAN on its approach to Myanmar. "We knew of the
differences, but did not expect it to surface so soon after ASEAN's annual
meeting in Jakarta. which accepted Myanmar as an observer.as prelude to
its becoming a full member in due course," they said.
This expression of difference only strengthened the reports from New York
that the seven Foreign Ministers could not reach a consensus on Myanmar's
application for membership. The State Law and Order Restoration Council
(SLORC) was emboldened to seek membership even in 1997, when
Cambodia and Laos were slated to join the grouping . The application was
handed in to Malaysia last month, during a high level Myanmar delegation's
visit, led by the Prime Minister and Slorc Chairman, Senior General Than
Sources in Yangon blamed the U.S. and the West in general for the sudden
change in the approach of ASEAN. They suggested that Washington had
`influenced' some of its `friends' in this region to put on hold the process
of Myanmar's integration with the grouping.
"The proposed resolution on sanctions in the American Congress, this
reported decision of ASEAN to defer a decision on Myanmar's membership
and the Opposition NLD's congress proposed for the week end all fall into
a pattern," the sources argued.
The National League for Democracy leader, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, managed
to meet the press at a house closed to her residence in Yangon today. She said
the SLORC had detained more than 800 of her party activists and not 559--
the figure furnished by the authorities.
Ms. Suu Kyi said that the crackdown and the ban on her meetings only helped
to booster movement's legitimacy and strengthen the struggle for the restoration
of democracy in the country.
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Myanmarsees U.S. plot
The Myanmar authorities openly blamed the U.S. for plotting with the
Opposition movement to conduct the party congress to prepare to grounds for
the American Congress to pass the sanctions. Details of the American envoy's
meetings with Ms.Suu Kyi were given out and the envoy promptly denied the
insinuations of any link between Ms.Suu Kyi's congress and her country. But
she also made it clear that as Washington's envoy, she had warned the
authorities not to ban the National League for Democracy congress or
continue with the crackdown as it would strengthen the case for the sanctions.
Without going into specifics, the European Union Foreign Ministers urged
Myanmar to release all the detainees. But the SLORC rejected all these
suggestions and charges, calling them 'false and frivolous'. they said most
of the detained person could be brought against some of them.
Meanwhile, the 'free Burma Coalition' called for world-wide fast from October
7to 9 in support of the struggle for democracy. Its student members in the U.S.,
Canada, south Africa and Australia, in particular, would go on a fast for those
three days in support of Ms.Suu Kyi's call for immediate and complete
withdrawal of all foreign businesses from Myanmar.
These were the four countries which, as dialogue partners of ASEAN, raised
the Myanmar issue during the recent Jakarta meetings and wanted the military
junta to end confrontation and open a dialogue with Ms. Suu Kyi. they wanted
ASEAN to play a pivotal role in pressurizing the junta to open up a political
process for national reconciliation,leading to the restoration of democracy in
that country. Conada even suggested the dispatch of U.N. contact group to
Yangon, to get the process kickstarted.
In Jakarta, ASEAN resisted all these pressures and stuck to its policy of
'constructive engagement' with SLORC. Apparently, some changes crept in
during these two months and at least some of its members have started airing
in public their reservations the developments in Myanmar and the reluctance
of the junta to work for a political consensus.
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