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Organization: Forum for Democracy and Human Rights
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Date: Fri, 4 Oct 1996 18:18:42 +0000
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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.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 
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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