Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Burma urged to release all detainees

By Nirmal Ghosh
Asia News

Asean foreign ministers on Monday urged Burma's ruling regime to release all detainees, including pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, to pave 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 election.

"We encouraged the Burmese government to hold free, fair and inclusive elections...thereby laying down a good foundation for future social and economic development," the joint communique said.

Burma is estimated to be holding well over 2,000 political prisoners in squalid jails. It has invited the disapproval of the international community recently by putting Ms Suu Kyi under trial over an alleged breach of the terms of her house arrest.

But the statement also added that Burma had expressed its view that pressure from the outside world and economic sanctions were hampering democratisation and development efforts.

It recognised that the Burmese government was trying to address many complex challenges and reiterated Asean's policy of constructive engagement and support for the efforts of the United Nations to engage with the regime.

Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan acknowledged that without the resolution of the issue of Burma, "Asean will continue to have a burden...to explain to the rest of the world".

He said Asean had offered to deliver humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya population of Burma's Rakhine state, in order to allay some of the hardship that has been driving them to seek refuge in Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries. Burma had agreed to consider the proposal.

Dr Surin added: "Asean takes a positive approach. While (the ministers) expressed their wish to see Burma moving in the direction of national reconciliation and sustainable political balance, they also wish to engage to help and support in many different areas."

The Straits Times

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