EU urges Myanmar to release Suu Kyi
European leaders step up pressure at start of Asia-Europe meeting in Vietnam.
Last Modified: 25 May 2009 12:09 GMT

Aung San Suu Kyi has pleaded not guilty to charges of violating conditions of her house arrest [AFP]

The European Union has repeated calls for Myanmar's military government to free Aung San Suu Kyi, the country's opposition leader who is standing trial on charges of violating the terms of her house arrest.

The call came on Monday at the start of two days of talks in Vietnam between foreign ministers from Asia and Europe.

The Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) in Hanoi had been called to discuss ways of tackling the global economic slowdown and boosting economic cooperation.

But it is expected to be overshadowed both by the Aung San Suu Kyi trial and Monday's surprise nuclear weapon test by North Korea.

Representatives from 45 nations are taking part in the two-day meeting with brings together representatives of the European Union (EU), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), as well as China, Japan, South Korea, India and Pakistan.

"It is obvious that the key is in Asia. I fundamentally believe that our Asian partners can incite the junta to evolve"

Rama Yade, French human rights minister

Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting Jan Kohout, the Czech foreign minister, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said he had passed on a message to his Myanmar counterpart calling for Aung San Suu Kyi's immediate release.

Kohout however acknowledged "I don't have a positive feeling" about the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained by Myanmar's military rulers for most of the past 19 years.

Aung San Suu Kyi's resumed in Yangon on Monday behind closed doors in the notorious Insein jail.

She has been pleaded not guilty to charges of violating the conditions of her house arrest by allowing an American intruder to stay at her home without official permission.

'Asia is key'

In depth

 Suu Kyi's uninvited guest
 Interview: Suu Kyi's US lawyer
 Asean criticised over Myanmar
 Video: Suu Kyi faces years in jail
 Video: Suu Kyi charges 'a ploy'
 Profile: Aung San Suu Kyi

Last week in Brussels EU foreign ministers considered tighter sanctions against Myanmar's military government to pressure it to restore democracy, but failed to agree on new measures.

They however signalled that they would urge countries with close ties to Myanmar such as China, India and Thailand to exert influence over it to change its ways.

Rama Yade, the French human rights minister, said on Sunday that Asian powers had the persuasive powers to get Aung San Suu Kyi freed.

Speaking in Paris ahead of the Asem meeting, Yade told TV5 Monde in an interview that it is now up to Asian governments to turn up the pressure on Yangon.

"It is obvious that the key is in Asia," she said. "I fundamentally believe that our Asian partners can incite the junta to evolve."


Besides attending the Asem meeting in Hanoi, the French minister is also scheduled to be at an EU meeting with Asean in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh on Saturday.

"I will meet various Asian authorities who are the only ones capable of influencing the junta because we have done everything we can," Yade said.

The 10-member Asean bloc, of which Myanmar is a member, generally refrains from criticising each other's domestic policies and has not gone beyond expressing concern over the situation.

Critics have accused Myanmar's ruling generals of seeking to use the charges against Aung San Suu Kyi, as a pretext to keep her in detention through elections scheduled for next year.

The polls will be the culmination of the so-called "roadmap to democracy" proposed by the military government which has been criticised as a fig leaf for continued rule.

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