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Asia-pacific

ASEAN 'concerned' about Suu Kyi trial, rules out sanctions

©

Video by Shona BHATTACHARYYA

Latest update : 2009-11-23

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has expressed "grave concern" at the trial of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but ruled out sanctions against Burma, a fellow member state, saying they were not an appropriate solution.

"It is therefore called upon to provide timely and adequate medical care to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as to accord her humane treatment with dignity," it said, noting the generals had ignored ASEAN's previous calls to free her.

Suu Kyi, whose latest detention began in May 2003, is charged with violating the terms of her house arrest after an American intruder spent two days in her home this month. The trial started on Monday and was due to resume on Tuesday.

Critics say the charges, which could see her jailed for five years, are aimed at keeping the Nobel Peace laureate in detention until after elections in 2010. She has denied the charges.

Since joining ASEAN in 1997, the generals have been a thorn in the group's relations with the West, which has repeatedly urged ASEAN to exert more pressure on the regime.

Critics fear a proposed human rights body under a new ASEAN charter signed in 2007 will have no teeth, given the charter's commitment to the group's mantra of non-interference.

Thailand, which holds the rotating chair of ASEAN, said the group was ready to "contribute constructively" to national reconciliation and a peaceful transition to democracy in Myanmar.

But it also warned that with the eyes of the world on Myanmar, "the honour and credibility of the Government of the Union of Myanmar are at stake".

The military has ignored the international outrage over Suu Kyi's trial as it pushes ahead with a "roadmap to democracy" expected to culminate in elections next year. The West calls it a sham aimed at entrenching the military's grip on the country.

NO SANCTIONS, SAYS THAILAND


The European Union threatened tougher sanctions against the regime on Monday, four days after the United States renewed its measures against the military government.

But some EU ministers said Asian countries could exert a stronger influence on Myanmar. They planned to discuss the situation with their Asian counterparts at a meeting of foreign ministers in Hanoi next week.

The Europeans are unlikely to secure tough measures from ASEAN, which has shunned sanctions in favour of engaging the generals, although neither policy has worked over the years.

China and India -- which have strong commercial ties to the impoverished but resource-rich former Burma -- have been silent on Suu Kyi's trial.

Thailand, which shares a 1,800 km (1,100 mile) border with Myanmar and is a major trading partner, has made clear sanctions are not an option.

"Thailand will not use strong measures or economic sanctions against Myanmar because it is not an appropriate resolution for the current problem," Foreign Ministry official Chavanond Intarakomalyasut told reporters on Monday.

Aside from Thailand and Myanmar, ASEAN's membership includes Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines.


 

Date created : 2009-05-19

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