[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

Asean defiant on Myanmar (The Asian

Subject: Asean defiant on Myanmar (The Asian Age, 2/12/96.)

Asean defiant on Myanmar 
Ministers blast Portugal over stand on East Timor 
The Asian Age, 2/12/96.
Jakarta, Dec. 1: South-East Asian leaders defied Western 
pressure on human rights issues, saying they will admit Burma 
to the Asean group of nations and blasted Portugal for its 
opposition to Indonesian rule in East Timor. 
A summit meeting of the seven members of the Association of 
South-East Asian Nations said observer nations Burma, Laos 
and Cambodia will be granted full membership simultaneously 
but stopped short of saying when. 
A joint declaration issued at the end of the summit, billed as an. 
"informal" meeting, also said it 11 noted with increasing 
concern the efforts of one member of the EU to introduce 
extraneous issues such as the question of East Timor in the 
economic co-operation and interaction between Asean and the 
"It's Portugal," foreign minister Ali Alatas of host nation 
Indonesia later told reporters. "It is making the East Timor 
issue a condition for Asean-EU co-operation. They have failed 
to achieve their purpose so far but it has become increasingly an 
irritant in the relationship between Asean and the EU. It is 
unnecessarily and unwarrantedly aggravating the relationship." 
He said Indonesia had raised the issue at the summit and "got 
full support from all the other heads of government of Asean ". 
Asean also groups Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, 
Thailand and Vietnam. 
Indonesia invaded East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, in 
1975 and annexed it a year later in an act not recognised by the 
United Nations. Portugal has been one of the leading critics of 
Indonesia's human rights record in the territory and has said 
East Timor must be allowed self-determination. 
The EU and the United States have also pressured Asean to at 
least delay granting full membership to Burma, saying that not 
doing so would be tantamount to approval of the Rangoon 
military government's crackdown on the pro-democracy 
movement led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and human 
rights abuses. 
Notwithstanding some disquiet on the issue among some of its 
leaders in the past month, Asean has maintained that its policy 
of constructive engagement with Rangoon is the best way to 
achieve political reform and that isolating the nation could be 
counter-productive. It has also said that it rejects external 
pressure on the membership issue. 
"The Myanmar of today is not the Myanmar of the past," 
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told reporters. "It 
is because of our constructive engagement that it has changed. 
If anyone says constructive engagement has not had a 
constructive effect, must be blind." 
Burmese military leader Genera] Than Shwe attended the 
meeting, but avoided speaking to the press. Foreign minister 
Ohn Gyaw said Rangoon "had no reason not to be happy" with 
the outcome. 
Diplomats have said Laos and Cambodia could be admitted to 
Asean as early as next year, but Mr Alatas said no time had 
been fixed. 
The summit avoided discussion of the upcoming World Trade 
Organisation meeting but Mr Alatas said that was because the 
region had already adopted a firm position on the stand it will 
adopt. "Asean's common position on WTO was well known," 
he said. "So there was no need to elaborate on that." 
Ministers on the fringes of the summit said Asean was 
determined not to allow issues like trade and human rights be 
linked with trade and investment at the inaugural ministerial 
meeting in Singapore next month. (Reuter)