Monday, March 2, 2009

Singapore’s Lee Urges Burma to Engage Int’l Community

The Irrawaddy News

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged Burma’s military leaders to engage the international community during an interview at the Asean Summit in Thailand on Sunday.

We see a window of opportunity for Myanmar [Burma] to engage the US and the international community,” he said. “Myanmar can capitalize on this opportunity by cooperating with the United Nations,” Singapore’s Straits Times reported Lee as saying.

The Singaporean prime minister also noted that during a recent visit to the region, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that both sanctions and engagement have failed to achieve results in Burma.

Lee also urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to support the mission of UN special envoy to Burma. Ibrahim Gambari. But he added that Asean should not encourage a visit to the country by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “unless there are concrete deliverables.”

“A visit will raise unrealistic expectations that cannot be met and would be counter-productive,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Burmese junta on Friday agreed to take back boatpeople if they are identified as “Bengalis,” rather than as Rohingya, according to a report in The Nation, a Thai English-language daily.

The Nation quoted Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya as saying that his Burmese counterpart took the view that “The Burmese government does not recognize the Rohingya people as one of 135 minority ethnic groups and it would accept only those who can be identified as Bengalis residing in the country.”

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