Fri 29 Jul 2005
Filed under: News,Regional
Vientiane: The pressure is not off military-ruled Myanmar after it agreed to forego the chairmanship of Southeast Asia’s ASEAN group, bending to US and EU demands, Thailand’s foreign minister said here Friday.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had “opened a door” with Myanmar’s ruling generals that it would continue to use to push for democratic reform, Kantathi Suphamongkhon told reporters in the Lao capital Vientiane.
Myanmar yielded the chairmanship on Tuesday after the United States and European Union said they would skip ASEAN meetings if Yangon took the position in 2006, as it was scheduled to do.
But the country has ignored international demands that it free democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party won 1990 elections by a landslide but was never allowed to rule. Neither has it undertaken other reforms.
Myanmar joined the 10-nation ASEAN in 1997, and has been considered by some an embarrassment for the group that is trying to assert itself in the international community.
“Since we have kept Myanmar engaged we have been able to relay to them our concerns about their national reconciliation process,” Kantathi said as a week of ASEAN meetings with its various partners drew to a close.
“So that door that we have left open with them has been very, very useful. We have to be able to give them frank opinion, etcetera and there has been healthy interaction,” he said.
“We do have quiet diplomacy and we intend to use that door to engage Myanmar in the direction that we would like to see.”
“The pressure is not off,” Kantathi said.
East Timor’s foreign minister, Nobel peace prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, said Friday that “sanctions are not fair and wise in some cases and Myanmar is one such case.”
The European Union last October reinforced sanctions on Myanmar after the junta failed to meet its demands on human rights, including releasing Aung San Suu Kyi.
The measures include an arms embargo, a visa blacklist, and an asset freeze.
Recently the US House of Representatives and the Senate overwhelmingly passed a resolution renewing a one-year ban on all imports from Myanmar.
Speaking to Asia’s main security forum of ASEAN and other countries, Ramos-Horta said the way to induce change was through diplomatic engagement and contact with tourism, education, investment and trade.
“Looking at the dilapidated capital Yangon, the sad look in peoples’ faces, their isolation and poverty, reading the disturbing data about the drugs and HIV/AIDS pandemic, the proliferation of irregular armed groups and weapons, the absence of a sizable middle class and a private sector, I feel it is an error to further punish Myanmar,” said Ramos-Horta. He had just returned from four days in the country.
“During my visit to Myanmar I was assured by the officials I met about the commitment to a road map, even if a slow one, towards democracy.”