Myanmar should be suspended from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) unless the military-run nation makes progress towards democratic reforms, regional lawmakers said yesterday.
"We should review or suspend Myanmar's membership and chairmanship in 2006 if there is no progress," said Malaysian lawmaker Zaid Ibrahim, who is also interim president of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Caucus on Myanmar.
Zaid said the ruling military junta should urgently and unconditionally free democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and restore her civil and democratic rights and release all other political prisoners.
The military has ruled Myanmar since 1962. The opposition headed by Aung San Suu Kyi won elections in 1990 but was not allowed to take power.
Lawmakers from ASEAN members Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia attended the three-day meeting on Myanmar.
The lawmakers and activists, in a two-page statement at the end of the meeting, also called for the restoration of legal and political authority to the elected parliament through free and fair elections.
They also said ASEAN should deny Myanmar chairmanship of the regional grouping in 2006 if the military-run nation fails to show tangible proof that it is moving towards democracy.
"In the absence of substantial and meaningful democratic and constitutional reforms in Myanmar, such assumption of the chairmanship of ASEAN would be severely detrimental to the interest of ASEAN," the statement said.
Zaid said ASEAN leaders should raise the issue head on with Myanmar when they meet today in Vientiane.