Friday, May 29, 2009

Call to suspend Myanmar

By Goh Chin Lian

(ST) -THE Myanmar government's continued disregard of Asean's concerns over its treatment of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has prompted two MPs to call for its suspension from the regional grouping.

Mr Charles Chong (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) and Mr Inderjit Singh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) argued that having Myanmar as a member would dent the credibility of Asean in the eyes of the world.

Replying, Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Zainul Abidin Rasheed defended Asean's preference to engage Myanmar rather than isolate it.

He cautioned that expulsion or suspension is not as straightforward as it seems.

Western sanctions have had little effect on Myanmar as long as China and India keep their borders with Myanmar open.

Myanmar is also used to being isolated by the international community, and has shown over the years that it will not yield to sanctions and intimidation.

'We have always believed in Asean that we have more influence over Myanmar, however limited, through engagement rather than isolating it,' he said.

Mr Zainul Abidin acknowledged that domestic developments in the country have 'adversely affected' Asean's reputation and credibility.

Myanmar does have to meet certain obligations to human rights under the Asean Charter that it ratified. Asean has made clear its stand as well.

Asean has also called on the Myanmar government to release Ms Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest or in jail for 13 of the last 19 years.

Read the full story in The Straits Times today.

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