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Conference on Burma 'unbalanced'
Rangoon should be invited, argues govt
An international labour meeting on democracy in Burma scheduled to start
tomorrow was banned because the Rangoon government had not been invited,
the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.
The meeting would have been allowed if organisers had asked
representatives from the Burmese military government to attend, to
balance the presence of the head of the government-in-exile, Sein Win,
spokesman Don Pramudwinai said.
"We don't have any problem with the meeting, but it should be properly
organised and more in balance," he said.
Mr Don said that allowing Mr Sein Win to attend would affect ties with
Burma, which was a fellow member of the Association of Southeast Asian
The ban has sparked an outcry from labour unions in Thailand and the
organiser, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, which
said it could jeopardise Deputy Prime Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi's
bid for leadership of the World Trade Organisation.
The National Security Council and the Foreign Ministry agreed on
Wednesday to prohibit the meeting after seeing Mr Sein Win's name on the
list of participants.
The three-day meeting was set to begin tomorrow.
It would have coincided with senior official-level talks between Asean
and the European Union, including a limited participation by Burmese
EU Ambassador Michael Caillouet said on Friday the Asean-EU Joint
Cooperation Committee meeting in Bangkok would not discuss political
issues but concentrate on moves to expand cooperation.
Burma, Cambodia and Laos will attend the talks as "non-signatory members
to the EU-Asean cooperation agreement". Mr Caillouet said this meant they
would have no right to speak.
Other Asean members are Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines,
Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The two groupings have not met since Burma was accepted into Asean two
years ago, because of European concerns over human rights violations and
lack of democracy in Burma.
Asean has urged the EU to allow Burma and Laos to sign the Asean-EU
agreement at the same time, but the call was turned down.
Mr Caillouet said Burma's acceptance would depend on improved human
rights and a demonstrated willingness to uphold democratic values.