Asean for Suu Kyi's release

Meeting in Cambodia on Tuesday, Southeast Asian foreign ministers called for the release of Myanmar’s detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    Myanmar Foreign Minister U Win
    Aung (C), at the ASEAN meeting 
    in Phnom Penh on 17 June

    The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) moved away from their traditional stance of non-interference in members’ internal affairs by making the statement.

    Released after two days of talks, the Asean statement said they "looked forward to the early lifting of restrictions placed on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD (National League for Democracy) members" arrested following violence in the country's north last month.

    Singaporean Foreign Minister S Jayakumar told reporters that, "it's a good step forward".

    His statement added to earlier remarks where he called recent developments "a setback not just for Myanmar but also a setback for Asean".
    Critics however, say the Asean meeting served Myanmar with nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

    But the joint statement is tougher than a draft released on Monday, which had only "expressed appreciation for the information provided by Myanmar on the latest developments in the country".

    Aung San Suu Kyi has been held by the junta under so called "protective custody" in a military camp outside Yangon since 30 May.

    Her arrest occurred after clashes between her supporters and that of the junta.

    It prompted outrage among world leaders, most vocally from US President George W Bush.

    International pressure

    Suu Kyi supporters want the US

    to increase pressure on Myanmar

    US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is due to arrive in Cambodia for regional security talks to be held Wednesday, has

    said that he will press Asean to take a tougher stance on the issue.

    Both the US and Europe have introduced tougher sanctions against the military-ruled nation since the Nobel peace laureate's detention.

    Japan has reportedly warned Myanmar that it might suspend economic aide over the issue.

    Tuesday's Asean statement also called on Myanmar's rulers to resume efforts to shift the country towards democracy.
    “We urged Myanmar to resume its efforts of national reconciliation and dialogue among all parties concerned leading to a peaceful transition to democracy," it said.

    "We also reaffirmed our continued support for the efforts of the UNSG (United Nations Secretary General's) special representative Tan Razali Ismail."

    Razali Ismail is credited for brokering talks between the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi. Although talks initially began in October of 2000, they have been unable to progress past the point of ‘confidence-building’.


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