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Ramos visit cements new Asean ties

South China Morning Post
Thursday  October 16  1997
Ramos visit cements new Asean ties 

AGENCIES in Rangoon 
Philippine President Fidel Ramos began a two-day landmark visit yesterday, the 
first by an Asean head of state to the country since its controversial entry 
into the regional grouping.
Mr Ramos was welcomed at the airport by General Than Shwe - Prime Minister and 
chairman of the ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council, which seized 
power in 1988 - and the Rangoon-based diplomatic corps.
He received a 21-gun salute and was cheered by hundreds of uniformed school 
children waving flags along the road to a state guesthouse, a kilometre from 
pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's residence.
Mr Ramos had earlier intimated he would seek to meet Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, in 
what would be an unprecedented encounter between a foreign head of state and 
Burma's most prominent opposition figure. However, it is unlikely such a 
meeting will take place.
The Prime Minister told Mr Ramos there would be a peaceful transfer of power 
to an elected government once drafting of a new constitution had been 
Philippine foreign under-secretary Rodolfo Severino, who attended the leader's 
talks, said the statement was a reference to power sharing between Rangoon and 
ethnic minorities.
Mr Ramos was accompanied on his trip by foreign and health ministry officials.
Two bilateral agreements and two memorandums of understanding, covering drugs 
control and economic and trade co-operation, were signed.
Philippine businesses have invested US$6.67 million (HK$51.56 million) in 
Burma since it opened up its economy at the end of 1988, making the 
Philippines the 18th-largest source of foreign investment in the military 
Burmese official media hailed the visit as "auspicious". It is the first by an 
Association of Southeast Asian Nations head of state since Burma's admission 
in July.
"It is our understanding that President Ramos desires broader and deeper 
co-operation among the Asean countries, which naturally means further 
bilateral and multilateral accomplishments," an editorial in the official 
daily New Light of Myanmar said.
"The warmth of Asean brotherhood will play an increasingly crucial role and 
pave the way for greater co-prosperity."
Burma's entry into Asean was opposed by Western nations critical of the 
junta's human rights record and suppression of democracy, but the grouping 
said it favoured "constructive engagement".
Meanwhile, a delegation representing the Washington-based Burma Forum met Ms 
Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday, informed sources said.