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ASEAN bows to Myanmar's wish not to mention Suu Kyi in statement+
[July 18, 2008]

ASEAN bows to Myanmar's wish not to mention Suu Kyi in statement+


(Japan Economic Newswire Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) SINGAPORE, July 18_(Kyodo) _ ASEAN foreign ministers will urge Myanmar to free all political detainees in a joint communique to be issued at their meeting here next week but they have again bowed to the military government's wish not to mention detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi by name, ASEAN sources said Friday.



At the strong insistence of fellow-member Myanmar, senior officials of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed to tone down the wording on political developments in Myanmar in the draft of the document to be released by their foreign ministers after their meeting Monday.

"All of us have agreed" for the document to call on Myanmar to "release all political detainees in order to pave the way for a meaningful dialogue for national reconciliation," an ASEAN official said on condition of anonymity.


The original draft statement prepared by Singapore, which is chairing the meeting, had mentioned Suu Kyi by name, according to sources.

It remains to be seen whether this year's communique will be any stronger than one issued by the ASEAN ministers in July last year in Manila, which alluded to Suu Kyi without naming her by referring to "the leader of the NLD."

"While recognizing the steps taken by the Myanmar Government to release the leader of the NLD, we continue to express concern on the detention of all political detainees and reiterate our calls for their early release," the communique.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won the 1990 election by a landslide but the junta refused to honor the results. The Nobel peace laureate has been detained for more than 12 of the past 18 years.

Sources said senior officials from Myanmar and other ASEAN members had been deadlocked over the issue since their informal working dinner on Thursday night, and only managed to come to a consensus over lunch Friday.

"There had been some resistance from Myanmar," to the original draft, the ASEAN official said. "Myanmar officials actually didn't want to have any reference to political issues in the country at all. They simply wanted it to report on positive developments."

The rest of ASEAN felt that "although we value the positive developments such as the junta's willingness to receive Gambari, we wish to continue to reiterate our calls for the Myanmar government to release all political prisoners."

The United Nations said Tuesday that Ibrahim Gambari, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon's special adviser on Myanmar, has received an official invitation from the junta to travel there in mid-August. His last visit in March yielded nothing concrete.

The senior officials agreed this year's ASEAN communique should also "urge Myanmar to take bolder measures toward the roadmap for democracy," said another ASEAN official.

Myanmar officials briefed other ASEAN members on the latest developments in the country, including the recent referendum for a new constitution, he said.

ASEAN has been under pressure from Western countries to urge Myanmar to speed up political democratization in the country.

But the thorny issue of political developments in Myanmar is usually discussed informally over dinner rather than at plenary sessions among ASEAN senior officials and ministers so as not to appear to be interference in the domestic affairs of a fellow member.

Next week's series of meetings involving ASEAN foreign ministers will begin with an informal working dinner among them Sunday night, followed by meetings with their counterparts from countries outside the region, including an ASEAN-plus-three meeting with China, Japan and South Korea, the 16-member East Asia Summit, and finally the ASEAN Regional Forum on security.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Copyright ? 2008 Kyodo News International, Inc.

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