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BP: May 23, 1999 : BANNED MEETING C
Subject: BP: May 23, 1999 : BANNED MEETING Conference on Burma 'unbalanced'
May 23, 1999
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 Nations.
The ban has sparked an outcry from labour unions in Thailand and the
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
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 representatives.
EU Ambassador Michael Caillouet said on Friday the Asean-EU Joint Cooperation
Committee meeting in Bangkok would not discuss political issues but
on moves to expand cooperation.
Burma, Cambodia and Laos will attend the talks as "non-signatory members to
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.
© Copyright The Post Publishing Public Co., Ltd. 1999
Last Modified: Sun, May 23, 1999
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