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Bangkok urges generals to show more

South China Moring Post
Saturday  November 22  1997


Bangkok urges generals to show more openness 

REUTERS in Bangkok 
Thailand's new Government plans to follow a policy of "constructive
engagement" with Burma but the Thai Deputy Foreign Minister yesterday
urged Rangoon not to isolate itself.

"The policy of constructive engagement is going to carry on but we will
put stress on the word 'constructive'," Sukhumbhand Paribatra told
Parliament as part of a presentation of the new Government's policies.

"The most important part is we are supporting Burma to be more open," he

He urged the military Government in Rangoon to try to improve relations
with other countries and recognise internationally accepted standards of
democracy and human rights.

"They have to adjust . . . to recognise that the world today has
international rules," he said. "No country can isolate itself and live
alone without complying to such international rules. It is to the Burmese
benefit to seek a way to develop itself."

Thailand, along with other Association of Southeast Asian Nations
members, has followed a policy of non-interference or "constructive
engagement" with Burma.

Many Western nations and international rights organisations had urged
ASEAN not to accept Burma as a full member because acceptance would be
tantamount to acceptance of Rangoon's widespread human rights abuses.

But ASEAN, which accepted Burma as a full member in July, says isolation
will not help the situation.

Thailand's previous government, led by General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, had
warm relations with the leaders of Burma's former ruling military body -
the State Law and Order Restoration Council. The council was recently
reshaped, supposedly to weed out corrupt ministers, and renamed the State
Peace and Development Council.

Thailand's new Prime Minister, Chuan Leekpai, has taken a stronger stance
against the ruling generals, especially in the realm of human rights.

Mr Chuan, who took office this month after General Chavalit quit, was
also prime minister from 1992 to 1995. In 1993, he was praised by human
rights groups when he allowed a group of Nobel Peace laureates to visit
Burmese refugee camps and rebel leaders on the Thai border.

The group was trying to travel to Burma to seek the release of fellow
prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest. Government
officials refused to let them enter Burma.

Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won a landslide
victory in a 1990 election but was not allowed to govern after the
military refused to recognise the result of the poll.