Thu 31 Mar 2005
Filed under: International,News
Brussels: The European Union said Thursday it wanted Myanmar to release political prisoners, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, if it wanted to hold a reputable chairmanship of the 10-nation ASEAN group next year.
EU spokeswoman Emma Udwin said the “best outcome would be to see progress” in the release of Suu Kyi and to resume a constitution-drafting national convention.
“We hope very much that the problems we currently have with Burma-Myanmar could be resolved before then. Then, no one would have any problems,” Udwin said.
EU officials said, however, that if the military junta in Yangon did not do more to release its grip on power, the 25-nation bloc could launch fresh political actions, including reducing its participation in meetings with Myanmar, which is set to take over the Southeastern Asian bloc’s rotating chair in late 2006.
They said, however, that a decision on possible political sanctions would be taken only if Myanmar did not improve its human rights record and failed to relinquish its chairmanship.
EU governments agreed to try to boost dialogue with Myanmar earlier this year, trying to set up talks between Myanmar’s foreign minister and senior EU officials at a meeting of ASEAN ministers in Jakarta, Indonesia. The Myanmar minister never accepted the invitation.
EU foreign ministers agreed last year to tighten sanctions against Myanmar’s military leadership to protest its failure to improve human rights.
Measures included extending the visa ban on high-ranking generals. The travel ban to Europe includes all those ranked brigadier general and above.
On Wednesday, the United States said it had yet to make a decision on whether it would block U.S. officials from attending ASEAN meetings if Myanmar takes the chair.
Other countries, including New Zealand, also have voiced concerns over the issue in recent days. Lawmakers in Malaysia, which will hold the ASEAN chair later this year, said last week they were planning to introduce a motion in Parliament urging ASEAN to deny Myanmar its chairmanship unless Suu Kyi was released and a timetable for political reforms was set.