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News from India (r)
ASEAN ROLE IN MYANMAR URGED
By V. Jayanth
SUBANG JAYA (Malaysia), July 27. The Myanmar issue
dominated the ASEAN Regional Forum proceedings today, but
the participants had to agree to disagree on the core
issues of restoring democracy in the country. As the
Chairman's statement, which is not a negotiated one, did
not reflect the views of many participants, a free-flowing
debate ensued. Countries like the U.S., Luxembourg (which
represented the E.U.), Australia and a couple of others
expressed their "strong dissatisfaction at the slow pace of
progress in Myanmar on constitutional reforms process."
The Foreign Minister of Myanmar, Mr. Ohn Gyaw, focused on
the problems in speeding up the prices. He referred to the
ground realities and the need to accommodate the wishes of
the ethnic groups and communities in any future power
sharing arrangement. He could not specify a time span, but
assured his colleagues that a multi- party system of
democracy would be introduced in his country.
Ms. Madeleine Albright, American Secretary of State, Mr.
Alexander Downer, Australian Foreign Minister of
Luxembourg, Mr. Jacques F. Poos, among others wanted ASEAN
to use its influence to ensure that human rights were not
violated in Myanmar and a meaningful dialogue was opened
with Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi to restore democracy in the
In separate briefings with the media, they expressed their
"disappointment" at the wording in the Chairman's statement
and hoped the ASEAN could use its policy of constructive
engagement to bring about change.
In the statement, the Chairmen and Malaysian Foreign
Minister, Mr. Abdullah Badawi, noted,"The Ministers
commended the increasingly close cooperation and mutual
assistance by countries in South-East Asia in promoting a
prosperous and peaceful community of nations, including
ASEAN's efforts at constructive engagement with Myanmar.
They welcomed the positive role played by ASEAN in
enhancing regional peace and stability. The expansion of
ASEAN membership contributes to these objectives."
At his wrap-up press conference, Mr. Badawi said,"We have
different views and it is not easy to reach an agreement on
such an issue. We agreed something has to be done.
Constructive engagement policy can help bring about desired
changes in Myanmar."
Asked if ASEAN would also engage with Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi,
Mr. Abdullah said such a suggestion was made at the
meeting."I cannot to into details of what ASEAN will do.
But now that Myanmar is a member and knows what is expected
of it, there may not be any difficulty in carrying out some
measures to influence changes in Myanmar. But I cannot be
specific about what we will do,"the Chairmen explained.
On the nuclear issue, he said the Indian position was put
across clearly and it was agreed that nuclear weapon-free
zones could be crated in phases towards total disarmament.
ASEAN would press ahead with on- going discussions with the
five nuclear powers to get them to endorse a protocol
attached to the South-East Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone
He said the Korean peninsula peace programme was discussed
in detail and the U.S. Secretary of State wanted ASEAN to
participate in the KEDO, with a contribution of about $10
millions."We have to discuss how we can do it and whether
it should be from ASEAN or by the individual member
countries,"he added. The meeting welcomed the proposed
four-party talks and hoped it could lead to "permanent
peace in the peninsula"
Though the ARF decided to move forward from its present
phase of confidence building to the next stage
of"preventive diplomacy," there was reportedly some
resistance from China in particular.
Mr. Abdullah explained that on issues like the dispute in
the South China Sea over the Spratly islands, the on-going
confidence building measures like workshops and bilateral
talks would continue. Members would work out areas in which
preventive diplomacy could be used.
Singapore's Foreign Minister, Prof. S. Jayakumar, suggested
a summit of leaders of the ARF member countries. But the
meeting could not agree on when to hold such a summit."We
have to first see that the process moves forward and all
are comfortable with it. Then we can think of it," the
Malaysian Minister explained.
Over dinner on Saturday, the Foreign Ministers dealt with
Cambodia. The Bulk of this morning's session was devoted to
Myanmar, while the afternoon wrapped up the rest of the
The Hindu, Monday, July 28, 1997
News and Information Bureau, All Burma Students League.
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