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News from India (r)

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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