Saturday, August 15, 2009

ASEAN: Free Suu Kyi call vetoed

Vietnam, Laos oppose Asean 'interference'


(Bangkok Post) -Thailand, as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, has proposed that other Asean members ask the Burmese government to give a pardon to its opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

But two Asean members - Vietnam and Laos - oppose Thailand's move, saying Asean should not interfere in the affairs of Burma.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said Thailand has written to other Asean members seeking a consensus to demand that the Burmese government considers giving a pardon to Mrs Suu Kyi.

Thailand has also sent a copy to Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win, said Mr Kasit, who was in Malaysia for the Thai-Malaysian Joint Commission in Sabah state.

"We are waiting for a reply from other Asean members," said Mr Kasit.

The Burmese court on Tuesday sentenced Mrs Suu Kyi to another 18 months of house arrest for violating house arrest rules, after an American man swam across a lake to stay uninvited at her villa for two days in May.

Mr Kasit said no special meeting among Asean foreign ministers would be held on the issue, because at least four countries were not ready. He did not say which countries.

But Vietnam disagrees with Thailand's call.

Vietnam state media reported yesterday that Vietnam did not support calls by other Asean member states for Burma to free Mrs Suu Kyi.

The state-run Viet Nam News said Vietnam had no criticism of Burma's decision on Tuesday to place Mrs Suu Kyi under house arrest for the next 18 months, effectively barring her from elections next year.

"It is our view that the Aung San Suu Kyi trial is an internal affair of Burma," Vietnamese government spokesman Le Dung said on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On Wednesday, the Thai government called on Burma to release Mrs Suu Kyi immediately and allow her to participate in next year's elections, echoing its own statements and those of other Asean members at the group's regional forum last month.

Mr Dung said Vietnam had always supported Burma and hoped it would continue to implement the "roadmap to democracy" that has been outlined by its government.

Laos said it shared the same view as Vietnam. Vientiane said the trial of Mrs Suu Kyi took place in accordance with the country's law.

It was opposed to interfering in neighbouring nations' affairs.

"As a member of Asean, we uphold the basic principles of Asean as stipulated in the Asean Charter, particularly the principle of non-interference in [each other's] internal affairs," said Lao foreign affairs spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing.

"We believe the recent trial of Aung San Suu Kyi was conducted in accordance with the judicial process of Burma," he added. "We are confident Burma will be able to implement the seven-step roadmap that will lead to democratisation, successfully and within the specified time."

Burma has notched up one of the world's worst human rights records, and its refusal to free Mrs Suu Kyi has inspired near universal outrage and condemnation.

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