Tuesday, July 21, 2009

ASEAN Foreign Ministers expect Burma to act responsively

by Usa Pichai

Phuket, Thailand (Mizzima) – As the 42nd ASEAN Foreign Minister’s Meeting officially kicked off in Thailand's island province of Phuket, delegates to the conference expressed concern regarding the political situation in Burma.

Presiding over the opening ceremony of the meeting, Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva spoke of the future goals for the bloc: “ASEAN must be able to act decisively and in a timely manner to address both internal and external threats and challenges to the security and welfare of its member states and peoples.”

In a 12-page Joint Communiqué released on Monday, entitled 'Acting Together to Cope with Global Challenges,' attending ministers said they “encourage the Myanmar [Burmese] Government to hold free, fair and inclusive elections in 2010, thereby laying down a good foundation for future social and economic development.”

“In this regard, recalling the ASEAN Leaders' Statement on 19 November 2007, we reiterated our calls on the Government of Myanmar [Burma] to immediately release all those under detention, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, thereby paving the way for genuine reconciliation and meaningful dialogue involving all parties concerned and with a view to enabling them to participate in the 2010 General Elections,” the group stated.

“Myanmar [Burma] expressed its view that pressure from the outside and economic sanctions were hampering Myanmar's [Burma’s] democratization and development efforts. Recognizing the fact that the Myanmar [Burmese] Government has been trying to address many complex challenges, we remained constructively engaged with Myanmar [Burma] as part of the ASEAN community building process,” the statement added.

Foreign Ministers from the 10-member grouping further vowed to continue supporting the ongoing initiative of the good office of the United Nations Secretary-General and welcomed Burma’s assurances to cooperate fully with the United Nations.

Thailand’s Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, during a press conference as the group’s chair, added, “My Myanmar [Burmese] friends, particularly the Foreign Minister, know very well what are the wishes of the rest of the ASEAN friends, what are the obligations on the part of Myanmar [Burma] to help to move ASEAN forward. Without changes in Myanmar [Burma], ASEAN cannot move forward…Give us the time to do it.”

Also on Monday, the foreign ministers endorsed the terms of reference for an 'ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights,' the newly coined name for the regional human rights body, which has already come under criticism for lacking independence, credibility and effectiveness.

However, the group maintains that the terms of reference for the rights body is a living document providing an evolutionary framework for furthering ASEAN’s efforts in the promotion and protection of human rights. It is scheduled to be reviewed five years after coming into force, which is expected to be later this year.

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