Tuesday, May 26, 2009

E.U. backs Thailand over Suu Kyi's trial

by Usa Pichai

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The European Union has announced its support for Thailand’s statement as ASEAN Chair on the political situation in Burma, according to Thailand's Foreign Minister.

The announcement came after Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya met with Jan Kohout, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, which currently holds the Presidency of the E.U. and heads the European's delegation to the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) underway in Hanoi.

They reportedly discussed recent developments in Burma, with Deputy Prime Minister Kohout welcoming the recently issued statement by Thailand as the ASEAN Chair on the current situation.

In the statement, Foreign Minister Kasit reiterated Thailand’s support for the process of national reconciliation and democratization in Burma, as well as its call for the release of political prisoners so as to ensure that elections in Burma next year will be more inclusive, according to a statement from Thailand’s Foreign Ministry.

However, the Burmese junta rejected the missive, arguing that the statement was tantamount to interfering in Burmese domestic affairs – with non-interference in the domestic affairs of member (ASEAN) states a pillar of the organization's strength.

"This statement, issued by the alternate ASEAN Chairman - which is not in conformity with ASEAN practice, incorrect in facts, interfering in the internal affairs of Myanmar [Burma] - is strongly rejected," the junta's mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar reported.

The response "sadly noted" that the Thai government had "failed to preserve the dignity of ASEAN, the dignity of Burma and the dignity of Thailand."

However, Kasit let it be known in Hanoi that the statement was issued in accordance with ASEAN practices and that the Burmese representatives knew about it right from the start.

"ASEAN has done this out of love, good intentions and the hope to see national reconciliation in Myanmar [Burma]," he said. "We are not interfering in domestic affairs, but showing our concern," according to a report in The Nation on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday met with Benita Ferrero-Waldner, E.U. Commissioner for External Relations, who stopped by Thailand on her way to Hanoi.

The Thai Prime Minister said the E.U. was headed in the right direction with its moves to engage the Burmese junta. "We share a common view that we should engage Myanmar [Burma] and the country should not be isolated," he said.

“I also support the E.U. in their providing more humanitarian aid to Myanmar [Burma] which will create more trust between them. However, the next ASEAN action will wait for the result from the summit in Hanoi. ”

Abhisit said on Monday that Thailand wants to keep on good terms with all neighboring and regional states. He also said the case of the Rohingya boat people from Burma's Arakan State is not only Thailand’s problem but a regional problem concerning five or six countries.

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