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Organization: Forum for Democracy and Human Rights
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Date: Sun, 6 Oct 1996 13:09:46 +0000
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U.S. Call Visa ban Ludicrous
Thr Hindu ( Oct. 6, 1996 )
The U.S dismissed as "  ludicrous' Myanmarese  clamp-down on entry visas for 
U.S citizens and said it was "not going to matter one bit" to anyone in the U.S. 
Government. The statement Department spokesman, Mr. Nicholas burns 
charged that Myanmarese military authorities had "made of  fools themselves" 
by their allegations against U.S. Yangon  imposed the visa restrictions in response
to an American ban , announced on Thursday by the U.S. President, Mr. Bill 
Clinton, on travel by Myanmarese Government leaders and their families to 
the United States.

"This is really ludicrous," Mr. Burns said. "This is a desperate attempt by the 
military dictators in Myanmar to try to do something to divert attention of their 
own people from the real problem which exists in the Myanmarese Government,
" he told a news briefing.

"I can assure you that is not going to matter one bit to any of us in Washington, 
D.C. who make policy or implement it or talk about it, that we can't travel to 
Yangon at this time," Mr. Burns told a news briefing.

The complicated restrictions issued by Myanmar did not make clear exactly 
which U.S citizens would be banned, but Mr. Burns said they mirrored the U.S. 
measures by debarring visas to U.S. Government Officials and their immediate 
families. Diplomats are not affected in either case.

Mr. Clinton's proclamation followed U.S outrage over the Myanmarese military 
Government's arrest of hundreds of pro-democracy activists over the last week.

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Myanmar stops issuing visas to Americans
>From V. Jayanth ( The Hindu, Oct 6, 1996 )
The travel ban imposed on Myanmar leaders and officials, along with families, 
by the U.S may have little impact on the military junta in Myanmar. But, as a 
signal to its allies and friends in this region, it is considered to be the starter for 
a review of relations with Yangon.

Yangon's military arrangement has already said "We are not going to protest as it 
does not jeopardise our national security. Relations are already pretty cool. So, 
if they don't want to deal with us, then we will deal with others who want to do 
so. Not only that, but the Government retaliated by stopping issue of entry 
visas to Americans.

Analysts say that the State Law and Order Restoration Council has been 
expecting and preparing for this mini-showdown. They do not rule out an 
escalation of the diplomatic row in the days and months ahead. But, they do 
not think that the SLORC will detain Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi again and create 
a major, international crisis for itself.

"As we see the situation, the generals are more keen on isolating and 
marginalising Ms. Suu Kyi. They may go after her supporters and loyalists. 
They will prevent her from functioning politically. But they will not impose 
any restrictions on her or put her under house arrest again. That will only be 
counter productive and alienate even the few friends they have in the region,
" sources at the institute of Southeast Asian Studies explain.

Malaysia has already come out in defense both of Myanmar and policy of 
ASEAN--- the southeast ASEAN grouping. Its Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir 
Mohamad, today declared in Kuala Lumpur that there was no need to review 
ASEAN's policy of 'constructive engagement' with Myanmar.

On the contrary, it is his argument that this policy is paying off and the dialogue 
with the SLORC must continue to ensure a gradual opening of Yangon. Known 
to be a strong and vocal critic of the west and for any imposition of systems or 
prescriptions for any other country, Dr. Mahathir may continue to push for 
engagement with Myanmar, at least to defy the West.

But his comments today have to be seen in the context of the Philippines 
President, Mr. Fidel Ramos's statement a couple of days ago that ASEAN will 
have to review its policy on Myanmar in the light of the recent  development. 
Manila, which is also ASEAN's Coordinator for  Myanmar, has now more 
openly linked political reforms to membership of the Asean, along with 
preparation for the economic integration.

Thailand has added its concern to these growing expressions or criticism of the 
military junta. A Thai Foreign Office Spokesman, Mr. Surapong Jayanama, has 
said "although it is an internal affair of Myanmar, we would like to see it 
resolved in positive way, with no violence and by having a dialogue between 
Myanmar's Government and the Opposition."

He argues "Thailand, which is a democratic country, cannot overlook public 
opinion and the opinions of governmental, non-governmental and mass media 
organisations on the matter."

It is one of those rare occasions when difference of perception within ASEAN 
have surfaced more openly. It is an organisation that works by consensus and 
not by majority opinion. Though it has been united thus for on gradually 
integrating Myanmar into the regional grouping, the pace of integration and the 
recent developments have sparked an internal strife.

Quite apart from Myanmar and its positions, the more extraneous issue that can 
color the evolving controversy is the question of succumbing to Western
 pressure or toeing the American line.

The first informal summit of ASEAN leaders is expected to held in Jakarta 
towards the end of November, or the first week of December. As such, the 
seven leaders and three from the potential member of States- Cambodia, Laos 
and Myanmar- will be meeting there in about a month.

At this meeting, the Myanmar issue will figure prominently both in the internal 
discussions of Asean leaders and their dialogue with the SLORC leadership of 

What will be interesting is to see if ASEAN can exert its own pressure on the 
junta to go through some process of reform or reconciliation and sort out the 
crisis regionally, instead of letting the West take it to an internal platform, as it 
bound to when the problem escalates in Yangon.

Authorities in Yangon have said that over 180 of the nearly 560 National League 
for Democracy activists who were detained last week have been release already. 
More releases were likely in the days ahead.

Singapore, Brunei and Vietnam have maintained silence on the Myanmar issue 
ever since the consensus to defer a decision on its admission to ASEAN was 
taken at an informal meeting of Foreign Ministers. Indonesia has even denied 
that such a consensus was reached and Malaysia has said that the ASEAN 
leaders will take up this issue when they meet in Jakarta. Both Thailand and the 
Philippines have expressed their reservations and concerns over recent 
developments in Yangon and suggested a review.

More than ASEAN, it is countries like Japan which have a stronger influence 
on Myanmar. It will have to be seen whether Tokyo stops with appeals and 
statements on Myanmar, or decides to adopt Washington's stance and ask for 
a dialogue or opening up. That may determine the future course of action in the 
region, though fundamental differences are bound to come out in the open.

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