Friday, May 29, 2009

Movement to Suspend Burma from Asean Grows


The Irrawaddy has conducted a random, unscientific opinion poll on its magazine Web site, asking readers if they would vote “Yes” or “No” to the question: Should Burma be suspended from Asean?

More than 90 percent of the respondents answered “Yes,” based on the results at 6:30 pm on Friday. Ten percent voted “No.” The vote is on-going and the results are immediately displayed.

Meanwhile, a number of Southeast Asian politicians have urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to suspend Burma's membership in the regional grouping if the military government does not release pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

Asean diplomatic sources told The Irrawaddy on Friday that leading members of the regional bloc such as Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines are considering suspending Burma’s membership if the junta extends Suu Kyi’s detention or sentences her to prison on trumped-up charges.

The Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC), a watchdog group based in Malaysia, this week called for tough action against Burma, including suspending its membership in the regional organization. Only three Asean member countries—Brunei, Vietnam and Laos—have yet to join the caucus.

Charles Chong, a Singaporean lawmaker, said, "More and more parliamentarians within Asean are beginning to lose their patience with Burma. And, we are calling upon our governments to do more than just expressions of dismay, regret, grave concern and so on, and seriously look at suspending Burma's membership in Asean."

Kavi Chongkittavorn, an editorial columnist on The Nation in Bangkok, said some Cambodian lawmakers have joined AIPMC, increasing the pressure on Burma to open up. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been a strong supporter of the Burmese junta, told AIPMC delegates that Burma needs to implement political reforms.

Kavi Chongkittavorn wrote that Asean's experience with Burma allows pro-reform members to argue strongly in favor of greater flexibility in exercising its non-interference principle.

Debbie Stothard, coordinator of the Alternative Asean Network (Altsean), said, “It is pretty clear that SPDC has been consistently undermining Asean.”

“Asean should consider some type of action against the regime. AIPMC demands that Asean should suspend Burma. It is quite reasonable,” she said.

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