The remarks were made by Syed Hamid Albar, the foreign minister of Malaysia, and published on Tuesday, on the eve of a meeting of the foreign ministers from the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Bali, Indonesia, on Wednesday.

Syed Hamid urged Myanmar's rulers to show "more credible, more visible action" to prove their commitment to democracy, stressing that the issue has "inundated many of our (regional) meetings, even at the international community level".

Myanmar is Asean's most vilified member, largely due to its government's failure to fulfil its promises to restore democracy and free Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace prize-winning pro-democracy leader.

Embarrassment

The country has become a source of embarrassment to most other Asean members, which initially defended it against Western criticism.

In an interview with The Star newspaper, Syed Hamid said there was a "feeling that Myanmar is dragging us down in terms of our credibility and image."

Suu Kyi has spent 10 of the past
16 years in custody

"We started with a very soft approach (towards Myanmar), but it is getting firmer. ASEAN is the last hope before people get impatient and stronger views are taken," Syed Hamid was quoted as saying.

"We need to search for a special formula to include Myanmar," he said.

Syed Hamid's visit last month to Myanmar, also called Burma, was wrangled after pressure on the generals by Asean, which itself has been under Western pressure over Myanmar's membership.

However, Syed Hamid was not allowed to meet Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest. She has spent 10 of the past 16 years in custody.

The military rulers, in power since 1962, refused to hand power to Suu Kyi's party after it won elections in 1990.