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Bkk post-Burma issue stands in way



Subject: Bkk post-Burma issue stands in way of progress

Bangkok Post May 27, 1999.
ASEAN-EU CO-OPERATION

Burma issue stands in way of progress
Advances hampered by its pariah status

Achara Ashayagachat


Burma still remains a barrier to greater co-operation between the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the European Union, despite
progress made at talks between the two blocs on issues such as narcotics and
the environment.

Director-General of the Asean Department Anucha Osthanon, who co-chaired the
Asean-EU Joint Co-operation Committee meeting, concluded that the talks had
been successful.

He said frank and open discussions had resulted in the adoption of a "new
dynamic" work programme and the launch of two new sub-committees on the
environment and narcotics.

Co-chairman Emiliano Fossati said the work programme would help strengthen
co-operation in wide-ranging areas, such as trade, intellectual property,
investment, the environment, tourism and narcotics.

The meeting, which brought together senior officials from the two blocs, has
been postponed three times since November 1997 because of EU sanctions
against Burma's poor human rights record and democratisation.

Mr Fossati said a decision had yet to be taken on whether Burma would
participate in the next meeting.

The co-chairman said the presence of Burma, Laos and Cambodia at the meeting
was the result of a compromise between the two sides because they did not
discuss internal affairs.

The EU's visa ban on Burmese government officials and top military officers
poses a problem for their involvement at a sub-committee meeting on the
environment to be held in Brussels in the future.

The two sides have yet to decide on the date of the meeting of the
sub-committee on narcotics and the date of the next JCC meeting has still to
be set.

Asked how Burma would participate in the next sub-committee on narcotics if
not allowed to speak, Mr Fossati said the drugs issue would deal more with
the demand rather than the supply side. He said: "Anything can be changed if
the situation (in Burma) improves."