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Leaders back Burma open-door plicy.
Leaders back Burma open-door policy
INdonesia and Malaysia defended yesterday ASEAN's "constructive
engagement" with Burma, saying Rangoon's much-criticised human rights
record should not deny it early membership in the grouping.
Malaysia's Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir, and the visiting
Indonesian President, Mr Suharto, agreed that Burma should not be isolated.
"Why should ASEAN adopt a rule which other international
organisations do not practise," Indonesia's Foreign Minister, Mr Ali
Alatas, told a news conference after the meeting between the leaders.
Mr Suharto arrived on Sunday for a 24-hour visit aimed at
enchancing bilateral ties.
Mr Suharto said the Association of South-East Asian Nations
should not look at the internal political situation of a particular
country when judging its qualification for membership.
"Don't ask ASEAN to do what is not accepted by others," Mr Alatas
said, adding that even the United Nations, which was made up of countries
of diverse political ideologies, had no such criteria for membership.
Mr Alatas was asked to comment on an apparent split in ASEAN
military clampdown by the Burmese junta in the past fortnight in which
hundreds of pro-democracy activists were arrested.
The President of the Phillipines, Mr Ramos, has asked ASEAN to
review its policy towards Burma at its summit in Jakata on November 30.
Mr Alatas said that as far as Burma's membership in ASEAN was concerned,
"Indonesia and Malaysia are of the same stand" and that for ASEAN as a
whole "there is no problem".
"It is a question of timing," Mr Alatas said.
At a separate briefing Malaysia's Foreign Minister, Mr Abdullah
Badawin, said both leaders had stressed the process of constructive
engagement must go on. However, he said no date had been fixed for
Burma's full membership.
ASEAN, which groups Malaysia and Indonesia with Brunei, The
Phillipine, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, has rejected efforts by many
Western countries to isolate Burma.
Malaysia wants Burma, which was accorded observer status in ASEAN
in July, to join next year, when Kuala Lumpur hosts ASEAN's ministrial
The secretary-general, Mr Ajit Singh, will visit Burma next month
to prepare for Rangoon's membership.
[By ONG SAW LAY, in Kuala Lumpur, AFP, 8 October 1996].