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Myanmar entry tointo ASEAN put on h

Subject: Myanmar entry tointo ASEAN put on hold

Myanmar entry into ASEAN put on hold 
>From V. Jayath 
SINGAPORE, Nov. 21: On the sidelines of the APEC meetings in Manila, the 
Foreign and Trade Ministers of Southeast Asia have had their routine 
meeting. And they have agreed to put off the admission of Myanmar into 
the ASEAN. The Foreign Ministers of both Indonesia and Malaysia _ two 
countries that have been pushing for Myanmar's for entry even next year _ 
accepted the consensus reached at the meeting. They agreed that State Law 
and Order Restoration Council ( SLORC ) had launched preparations to 
join  ASEAN, but it would need more time to bring its systems and 
procedures on line with requirements particularly of the ASEAN Free Trade 
ASEAN Ministers took pains to explain that the decision to give Myanmar 
more time for preparations had nothing to do with its internal 
developments' or the growing demands from the U.S. and European for 
concerted action for a political dialogue. They argued that the reason 
were ' technical ' and had everything to do with Myanmar's preparations 
and obligations of becoming a fill member of the regional group.
They repeated in chorus that there were on difference of opinion on 
Myanmar's entry into ASEAN, but only a discussion on the assessment and 
the feed back from the Secretariat, the Ministers now decided that the 
other entrants_Vietnam, Laos and Combodia_Myanmar too should be given two 
to three years after being granted Observer status.
With that decision yesterday, the ASEAN Minister took the steam out of 
the first informal summit of their leaders in Jakarta on November 30. The 
leader with on formal or structured agenda, will now be able to review 
the regional and global developments and come up with join approaches to 
some of these problems to be handled by the grouping. The other 
significant move by ASEAN's Economic Ministers relate to the setting up 
of a dispute settlement machinery to deal with any problems that might 
arise from the AFTA, which is coming to operation in a phased programme 
till 2003. They decided to model it on the DSM of the World Trade 
Organization ( WTO ). Any dispute or difference should referred by member 
countries to the Senior Economic Official, who will discuss it at their 
regular meeting. They can refer any issue to the ASEAN Economic 
Ministers. A team of experts will be constituted to assist the senior 
officials in formulating rules and guidelines on dispute settlement and 
the parameters. According to ASEAN officials, the Ministers utilised the 
meeting to discuss the agenda for both the APEC and the WTO. They worked 
out strategies to build a consensus on the controversial issue that 
threatened to ' distract ' the attention  of Trade Ministers at the 
forthcoming WTO Ministers conference in Singapore next month. Malasia has 
maintain its image as the most vocal and outspoken member of APEC. Both 
the Prime Minister, Mrs. Rafidah Aziz, have made it clear that APEC must 
remain loose, consultative forum and no binding trade block that can 
force deadlines and trade negotiation in the region. Last year, it 
succeeded in inserting the world " voluntary " into the Osaka Action Plan 
and Malasia will retain that focus in the discussion in Manial and Subic 
Bay this week end. 
Thailand will be unable to make an effective presence or contribution 
this time, because the new government, after Sunday's general election, 
is still not in place. But senior officials have conveyed Bangkok's view 
in no uncertain term on key issues such as Myanmar and membership of 
APEC. Indonesia is still facing some rough weather at home and abroad 
over the East Timor issue. The Nobel Laureate, Bishop Belo , issue a 
statement in Dili yesterday blaming the German magazine for " distortion 
and manipulations " in the text of his recent interview, which quoted 
like " dogs " by the Indonesia troops. Demonstrations in Jakata called 
for an apology from the Bishop and condemned Jakata. In the midst of 
theirs developments, general elections has been set for May 29 next year. 
The Government has given the three political parties that are entitled to 
contest the elections 25 days for campaigning ahead of the polls. Though 
the Opposition Indonesia Democratic Party ( PDI ) was split and Ms. 
Megawati can not contest the next election, there is bound to be some 
regional interest in its outcome and the debate it can generate.