Thursday, July 23, 2009

ASEAN rejects Clinton's call to expel Myanmar

BANGKOK (Channel New Asia)- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will not consider expelling Myanmar over the detention of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, rejecting US calls, Thailand's prime minister said Thursday.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Thai television Wednesday that the regional bloc should consider kicking out the military-ruled member state if it does not free the Nobel laureate, who is on trial in prison.

But Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, speaking as current chair of the 10-state grouping, said that while ASEAN and the West "have the same goal, we cannot implement the same policy."

"There are not enough grounds to do that (expel Myanmar). We have already done what we can under the ASEAN mechanism," said Abhisit, referring to the group's public statements expressing concern over Aung San Suu Kyi's detention.

"If Myanmar is expelled it will further isolate (the regime) and would that solve the problem?"

Myanmar -- ASEAN's problem child since it joined the bloc in 1997 -- recently sparked outrage by putting Aung San Suu Kyi on trial over an incident in which an American man, John Yettaw, swam to her lakeside house uninvited.

The ruling junta snubbed United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in early July by refusing to let him visit Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon's notorious Insein prison, deepening concerns in the international community.

US President Barack Obama has described the court proceedings as a "show trial".

The democracy icon has spent 13 of the last 19 years in detention since the junta refused to recognise her National League for Democracy's landslide victory in elections in 1990.

But Abhisit has previously rejected the imposing of sanctions on Myanmar, such as those enforced by the United States and European Union.

"We are still insisting on our policy of constructive engagement and hope that the US will understand," Abhisit added.

Abhisit's comments came on his return from the southern Thai resort island of Phuket where senior officials and ministers have held talks on Myanmar and the denuclearisation of North Korea on the sidelines of Asia's biggest security forum.

- AFP/ir

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