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27/7/97:NEWS FROM RECENT ASEAN MEET
Subject: 27/7/97:NEWS FROM RECENT ASEAN MEETING
#27/7 -- AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL DEMANDS ASEAN WATCH BURMA, CAMB.RIGHTS
#27/7 -- U.S.SECRETARY ALBRIGHT PRESSES ASEAN ON BURMA
#27/7 -- ASEAN TO SHIFT TO A MORE ACTIVE-INTERVENTIONIST ROLE
#26/7 -- AUST.FM CRITICIZED BURMA REFORMS AS "GLUE UP-HILL, SNAIL'S-PACE"
ASIA: AMNESTY DEMANDS ASEAN WATCH BURMA, CAMBODIA RIGHTS
KUALA LUMPUR, July 27 Reuter - Amnesty International today said
ASEAN was now responsible for human rights in Burma and Cambodia
despite its insistence on "non-interference" in the internal
affairs of its members.
"Far from being an internal affair, human rights issues directly
engage the international responsibilities and national interests of
other states," Amnesty said in a statement issued in Kuala Lumpur
in conjunction with the annual ASEAN Regional Forum in the
ASEAN, or Association of South East Asian Nations, last week
admitted Burma and Laos as new members. They join Brunei,
Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and
"Now that ASEAN has admitted Myanmar (Burma) as a member state,
it is hoped that a renewed effort will be made to push the Myanmar
authorities to initiate dialogue with opposition and ethnic
groups," the Amnesty statement said.
It said ASEAN, which practised a policy of non-interference in
the internal affairs of its members, should bring an "immediate
halt to the ongoing human rights violations committed by the armed
forces (of Burma)".
Cambodia had been due to become an ASEAN member at the group's
current meetings. But its admission was delayed indefinitely after
Cambodian strongman Hun Sen ousted First Prime Minister Prince
Norodom Ranariddh in a coup early this month.
"Further action to bring Cambodia back on the track of
development and stability should include setting clear benchmarks
for the Cambodian authorities that include protection for human
rights," Amnesty said.
ASIA: ALBRIGHT PRESSES ASEAN ON BURMA, CAMBODIA
KUALA LUMPUR, July 27 Reuter - US Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright today made a fresh effort to get ASEAN to take urgent
action on Burma, arguing that Rangoon's drug trade and repression
worked against the region's growing vibrancy.
In a statement to the Association of South East Asian Nations
Regional Forum, a security group, she also declared that a
negotiated solution in Cambodia was feasible and set out steps that
ASEAN should focus on to ensure free elections in that troubled
country next May.
Albright accepted ASEAN's decision to take Burma in as a new
member this year, but said: "Now that the choice has been made, we
must insist that we work together to promote conditions within
Burma that will lead towards true democracy and permit its genuine
integration into this region."
Washington for years has unsuccessfully pressed ASEAN to take
action on Burma, citing Rangoon's human rights record. This year's
pitch centred more on issues involving the direct self-interest of
ASEAN's booming economies.
Albright said it was urgent that ASEAN focus on Burma and take
other steps to ensure stability in Asia, for "although this region
is experiencing an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity,
its continued security is not guaranteed".
"A number of territorial and political problems could spark
conflict if left unattended. The transnational dangers posed by
weapons proliferation, terrorism, narcotics and crime threaten us
all," she said.
ASEAN admitted Burma despite criticism from Western powers led
by the United States over Rangoon's record on human rights and
democracy, particularly after the military junta set aside
democratic elections and took power.
In a sign of increased US concern, President Bill Clinton in
April imposed a ban on new US investment in Burma. But ASEAN
rejected that view, preferring dialogue with Burma's military
By taking in Burma, ASEAN accepted to deal with Burma's
problems, Albright said in her statement.
Burma is the only member of ASEAN subject to international
sanctions, denied multilateral lending and where foreign investment
was stagnating, she stressed.
It was also the only nation in ASEAN "where the government
protects and profits from the drug trade ... Drug money is
laundered with such impunity in Burma that it taints legitimate
investment," she added.
Albright argued that movement towards a more open and democratic
Burma would reduce tension created by refugees and ethnic conflict,
create a climate in which cooperative action against narcotics
could be effective and allow Burma to contribute to the region's
On Cambodia, Albright laid out an action plan that formalised
principles the United States had been advocating in the three weeks
since Second Prime Minister Hun Sen ousted First Prime Minister
Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
ASEAN and its allies, like the United States, should support the
right of Cambodia's political parties, including Ranariddh's
royalist party, to operate freely and insist their exiled leaders
be allowed to return home safely, she said.
Hun Sen should respect press freedoms and move to depoliticise
the military, she said.
The United States and ASEAN should be prepared to monitor the
Cambodian elections, insist on respect for the 1991 Paris peace
accords on Cambodia and "reject any political arrangement imposed
through violence and coercion", she said.
Also, Khmer Rouge guerrilla leaders, blamed for the deaths of at
least a million Cambodians when they ruled the country in 1975-79,
should be barred from playing a political role and the
international community must develop a process to bring war
criminals to justice, she said.
ASIA: ASEAN TO STEER A MORE ACTIVIST COURSE, ANALYSTS SAY
ASEAN FUTURE (NEWS ANALYSIS)
By Bill Tarrant of Reuters
KUALA LUMPUR, July 27 Reuter - A newly enlarged Association of
South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is preparing to steer a more
activist course and wield economic and political clout, analysts
and officials said at the weekend.
Winding up its 30th anniversary meeting on Friday, ASEAN members
decided to resume a mediation mission to help bring peace to
troubled Cambodia and to take collective action to defend their
currencies from assault by money traders.
Mahathir Mohamad, prime minister of ASEAN member Malaysia,
launched a stinging attack on currency speculators and said
outsiders should keep out of the region's business.
A government-run newspaper in Sri Lanka hailed him as a
"Godsend" for the Third World and Asia in standing up to the West.
Burma and Laos this week joined ASEAN, which also includes
Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and
Cambodia was supposed to have been admitted as well. But
Cambodian strongman Hun Sen's overthrow of First Prime Minister
Prince Norodom Ranariddh earlier this month plunged the country
into turmoil, putting its entry on hold.
ASEAN, which has long been involved in diplomatic efforts to
settle a two-decade civil war in Cambodia, said it would send a
mediation mission to Phnom Penh once it had "reconfirmation" that
Hun Sen would really welcome the group's help.
And ASEAN's Western trade partners are urging the group to make
good on its promise to prod new member Burma along the road to
"Burma's problems are now ASEAN's problems," US Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright said in a recent speech in Los Angeles.
Getting involved in the internal matters of members would have
been unthinkable for ASEAN until recently. A cornerstone policy of
the group has been to avoid interference in each other's affairs.
But intellectuals and diplomats in the region say ASEAN is
evolving in the direction of more intervention.
Deputy Malaysian Foreign Minister Anwar Ibrahim has said the
time has come for ASEAN to consider "the idea of constructive
interventions", and cited Burma as an example.
ASEAN has now nearly doubled its membership since the original
five came together in 1967 at the height of the Vietnam War, when
insurgencies, ethnic strife and ideological divisions were rife in
All the original five (Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand,
Singapore and Malaysia) held deep suspicions about each other in a
Cold War environment in which both the United States and the Soviet
Union were trying to line up allies.
The 10 countries of south-east Asia - including Cambodia, which
remains an observer in ASEAN - have a combined population of nearly
half a billion people and the group's combined gross domestic
product of $US600 billion ($A820 billion) ranks behind only Japan
and China in Asia.
ASEAN is creating a free trade area over the next decade,
encompassing a geographic area bigger than the United States and
more populous than Europe.
ASEAN's Secretary General Ajit Singh told reporters that the
goal of cutting tariffs to between zero and five per cent in
inter-ASEAN trade would largely be realised by 2000, three years
ahead of schedule.
The addition of new members and the rapid development of some of
the world's fastest growing economies is undoubtedly giving ASEAN
new heft in the diplomatic arena.
But whether the disparate group of governments wants to
integrate in a more legally binding way, following the model of the
European Union, is highly doubtful, analysts said.
ASEAN members rarely sign legally binding agreements. They never
vote, but discuss an issue until a position is found which is
acceptable to all. Agreements are more likely to be worked out on a
golf course than in a conference room.
"In most meetings, the strongest expression of minority
reservations is often 'I go along with the consensus'," ASEAN's
newly-elected Secretary-General Rodolfo Severino told a conference
of academics and diplomats.
The enlargement of ASEAN to nine members would make consensus
building more difficult, officials at the meetings said.
The induction of poor and much less developed countries such as
Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, also had the potential to create
a two-tier membership of rich and poor nations within the group,
"Some commentators have expressed the fear that ASEAN's
enlargement will widen the perceived division between mainland and
maritime south-east Asia," Severino said.
The freer flow of goods, services and capital throughout the
region as the free trade area comes into being would have to be
accompanied by a similar free flow of labour, analysts said.
That has proven to be a sensitive subject in a region where
borders were flashpoints for insurgencies 30 years ago. Even today,
Thailand has been a reluctant host to Burmese and Cambodian
"The movement of labour has been managed much less forthrightly
and skilfully and rationally than that of goods, services and
capital," Severino said.
The growing scarcity of resources such as food, fuel and fish
could create new problems in the future. Cross-border pollution,
narcotics trafficking and sea piracy are other challenges
confronting ASEAN in the future, diplomats and analysts said.
DOWNER CRITICISES BURMESE REGIME ON REFORM PACE
By Gordon Feeney, AAP South-East Asia Correspondent
KUALA LUMPUR, July 26 AAP - Australian Foreign Minister
Alexander Downer today condemned the "snail's pace" of political
reform in Burma - and announced a special envoy would visit to
assess the situation and meet Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
Mr Downer told reporters after a meeting with Burmese Foreign
Minister U Ohn Gyaw that he believed political reform in Burma was
progressing "at snail's pace" - the speed of "glue up a hill".
And Mr Downer was forced to telephone U Ohn Gyaw after he
reportedly told the media Mr Downer had not raised human rights at
"I wouldn't have rung him if I wasn't a little surprised to hear
what he'd said," Mr Downer said.
Mr Downer said senior Australian diplomat John Dauth, a former
Ambassador to Malaysia, would travel to Burma in the next couple of
months to probe the human rights' situation and to meet Suu Kyi.
"Constitutional reform in Burma is travelling at about the pace
of glue up a hill," he said.
Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won elections in Burma
about seven years ago, but the military refused to yield power -
and set up the State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc).
Mr Dauth would meet the Slorc to emphasise Australia's wish to
see political reform, along with other key figures, including a
proposed meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi.
"I made the point to the foreign minister that the National
League for Demcoracy had received overwhelming support from the
Burmese people in the election that took place in Burma.
"He made the point to me that the SLORC did not run candidates
in that election so you couldn't judge the popularity of the
National League for Democracy against the SLORC.
"I have to say that I find that as a disappointing response."
Mr Dauth is likely to travel to Burma some time around early
September. Mr Downer said U Ohn Gyaw had agreed to facilitate the
trip by Mr Dauth - also Special Envoy to Cambodia.
Mr Downer said he told U Ohn Gyaw that he had seen almost no
progress on political and constitutional reform since he had met
with the Burmese regime one year ago.
"I said that I thought the constitutional reform process was
proceeding at a snail's pace.
"Last year when we raised the question of constitutional reform
in Burma the minister had told us that there was a process under
way and that the process was evolving.
"I said to him that we got the impression 12 months later that
very little had happened and he assured me that the constitutional
reform process would proceed.
"I asked him whether it would proceed quickly or whether this
was something that was going to take five to ten years. He made it
clear that it would happen in Burma's own time, but he didn't think
it would take that long, Mr Downer said.
"I said that in Australia and in other countries around the
world there was deep concern about reports of political detainees
held without trial - that there were refugees and that
internationally there was a great deal of concern about the hman
rights' situation in Burma.
"The foreign minister deneid that there were any political
detainees and said as far as refugees were concerned, they were not
refugees these people were the families of guerrilla fighters," he
"I have to say at the end of the discussion I formed the view
that there is a long way to go in terms of the constitutional
reform process in Burma.
"The Burmese government suggests that it is making progress
towards reform but the experience of the last 12 months is that
none has taken place," Mr Downer said.
"I am concerned that the meeting that took place last week
between the National League for Democracy and the SLORC was
according to the foreign minister - not a meeting that should be
seen as a first step towards dialogue between the SLORC and the
National League for Democracy."