Sat, Dec 10, 2005 - Page 4 News List

ASEAN delivers rebuke to Myanmar

REFORM NEEDED The Southeast Asian nation's military government has been strongly criticized at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur for their lack of democratic reforms


Southeast Asian ministers yesterday admonished Myanmar for its lack of democratic reforms, saying that if the military-run nation wanted the region's support it would have to show more progress.

"They talk about democracy. We want to see some movement that will show they are really leading towards that," said Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar.

"I don't think any single country in ASEAN does not feel impatient or does not feel uncomfortable, because it does create problems and difficulties for us. This has created some embarrassment," he said.

"We discussed the question of Myanmar, of the need for Myanmar to be more responsive to the wishes of the international community, and I think this has been clearly stated," Syed Hamid said.

Malaysia is chair of ASEAN and Syed Hamid made the comments to reporters after he and his counterparts broached the issue at annual ASEAN talks in Kuala Lumpur.

"One of the things that is important is for them to consider the release of Aung San Suu Kyi," he added.

Myanmar's military leaders have extended by six months the house arrest restrictions against the Nobel peace laureate, who has been confined for 10 of the last 16 years.

Her National League for Democracy won elections in 1990 but was never allowed to govern.

Myanmar has caused unease within ASEAN since it joined the grouping in 1997 because of its human rights record. The US and EU impose sanctions on the country, which Washington calls an "outpost of tyranny."

The country was recently pressured by fellow ASEAN states into skipping its turn to chair ASEAN next year, and now the UN Security Council has agreed for the first time to discuss human rights in Myanmar.

In 2003, Myanmar announced its "road-map to democracy," a move some ASEAN diplomats felt vindicated the group's policy of engagement. But Western critics feel the road-map is a sham and point to the continued detention of Suu Kyi.

Syed Hamid voiced surprise at Suu Kyi's extended house arrest and said he would visit Myanmar to see the situation and gauge progress there. But he did not specify any time frame for the visit.

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