Fri 28 Apr 2006
Filed under: News,Regional
Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo said Friday he may visit Myanmar in June to discuss democratic reform in the military-ruled country.
“I was invited by the foreign minister of Myanmar, so I will go, probably in June,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a Malaysia-Philippines joint commission meeting.
The visit is scheduled as Philippines is to host the leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations in December.
ASEAN, which used to hold sacred its doctrine of noninterference and “constructive engagement,” has recently broken tradition with a rare display of criticism against Myanmar, a member since 1997.
The group has voiced frustration over the snail-pace reforms promised by Myanmar’s ruling generals and the continued detention of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Growing pressure from ASEAN and the international community forced Myanmar to give up its turn to host the ASEAN leaders’ summit this year and passed it on to the Philippines.
The ASEAN chair rotates according to alphabetical order among its member countries.
But aside from giving up the chairmanship, it has been “business-as-usual” in Myanmar and that led ASEAN to dispatch Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar as its envoy to Yangon to gauge progress of reforms.
His two-day trip in March, however, was deemed a failure because Syed Hamid was barred from meeting both Suu Kyi and junta leader Than Shwe.
Romulo was noncommittal about his chances for success, but he said he has asked to meet both leaders and would raise the issues of democratic reforms and the release of political prisoners with the junta.
“We will not hesitate to remind them,” he said.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.