Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Jailing Suu Kyi again 'not good for region' : Thai FM

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation

Jailing Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi again could risk regional security, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said yesterday in defending Thailand's decision to issue an Asean chairman's statement on the issue as made with the "best of intentions".

"It is worrisome that the trial to extend her detention would not be a good thing for the region," Kasit told reporters on the sidelines of the Asia Europe Meeting in Hanoi.

Burma could not protest that Suu Kyi's case would not affect regional security. As long as there was instability there, it could affect the whole region, he said.

Thailand as the current chair of Asean would continue to dialogue with Burma although the junta regarded the move as intervention in the country's internal affairs, he said.

Many countries welcomed and praised Thailand's brave decision to respond to the situation, he said.

"What we said (in the chairman's statement) is not different from what the Asean leaders had voiced in concern during the summit in Thailand," he said.

The foreign ministers of Asean would discuss the situation in Burma and Suu Kyi's trial again when they meet in Phnom Penh from May 27-28, he said.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva as the chair of Asean issued a statement on May 18 expressing "grave concern" over Suu Kyi's situation as she faced a trial in connection with American John Yettaw, who swam across the Inya Lake to her residence where she has been under custody since May 2003.

Suu Kyi testified at a court in Rangoon yesterday that she did not violate the terms of her house arrest when she temporarily sheltered the American man.

The Burmese junta has lashed out the Asean chairman's statement, saying it was not in conformity with Asean practice, incorrect in facts and interference in Burma's internal affairs.

The junta has "sadly noted" that Thailand had "failed to preserve the dignity of Asean, the dignity of Burma and the dignity of Thailand".

The Foreign Ministry yesterday issued a clarification, saying the issuance of the Asean chairman statement was a "similar action [that] had been taken before".

Asean senior officials had discussed and expressed their views on May 18 when they met in Phuket and agreed that Thailand should issue a statement about recent developments

concerning Suu Kyi and to inform Asean foreign ministers accordingly, said the Foreign Ministry's press statement.

In practice, a joint Asean statement is a negotiated text that must be prepared by officials and approved by foreign ministers or leaders.

"An Asean chairman's statement, however, is issued by the government which is the current chair of Asean, without the need for joint drafting by Asean officials," it said.

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