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Reuters-Unions slam Thais over Myan

Subject: Reuters-Unions slam Thais over Myanmar democracy meet ban 

Unions slam Thais over Myanmar democracy meet ban
02:13 a.m. May 22, 1999 Eastern
BANGKOK, May 22 (Reuters) - The International Confederation of Free Trade
Unions has slammed a Thai decision to block a conference scheduled for next
week on democracy in Myanmar (Burma), saying Bangkok lacked both courage and

The confederation said 130 participants from Asia and beyond had been
expected to attend the conference planned in Bangkok from Monday to

``(It) has been postponed due to the refusal, at the eleventh hour, by Thai
authorities for it to proceed,'' said a statement from Takashi Izumi,
general-secretary of the Singapore-based International Federation of Free
Trade Unions-Asia.

``It is a sad reflection on the so-called sovereignty of Thailand they have
bowed to the military junta in Burma in this instance and to the widely
publicised deplorable human rights record of that country.''

``The ICFTU takes strong exception to the fact that it is banned from
holding this conference,'' it said.

``The military junta in Burma continues to use countries such as Thailand,
who have neither the courage not the principle to stand up and recognise
right from wrong, to advance their standing in the international community.

``It is time that Thailand and other ASEAN countries stopped pretending that
human rights abuses in Burma do not exist.''

Saturday's edition of the Bangkok newspaper The Nation quoted a letter from
the Labour Ministry as saying that the holding of the democracy conference
in Thailand ``would have negative effects on the good relations between
Thailand and a neighbour.''

The conference would have coincided with a meeting in Bangkok of the Joint
Cooperation Committee of the Association of South East Asian Nations and the
European Union, which has been stalled for the past year over Myanmar's

The blocs finally agreed to hold the twice-postponed talks under an
arrangement whereby the new members of ASEAN -- Laos, Myanmar and
Cambodia -- are not fully represented on the grounds that they have not
signed a 1980 joint cooperation agreement.

The Nation quoted EU ambassador Michel Caillouet as saying the meeting would
focus on technical cooperation, but some political discussions might take

place on the sidelines.

However he said Myanmar's joining the committee was not up for discussion.
``If we receive demands from ASEAN for Burma to be party to this agreement,
we will say no,'' he said.

The dispute over Myanmar forced cancellation earlier this year of a meeting
of EU and ASEAN foreign ministers, since EU sanctions bar entry by senior
Yangon officials.