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Asean and EU sidestep Myanmar issue
- Subject: Asean and EU sidestep Myanmar issue
- From: moe@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Fri, 28 May 1999 22:29:00
Subject: Asean and EU sidestep Myanmar issue (AFP)
MAY 28 1999
Asean and EU sidestep Myanmar issue (AFP)
Progress is made in wide-ranging talks but alleged
human-rights violations make Myanmar's status at
future sessions uncertain
BANGKOK -- Asean and the European Union
wrapped up a landmark meeting here yesterday after
sidestepping differences on Myanmar which have
derailed relations for two years.
But despite the upbeat spin officials put on the meeting
on Wednesday, they hinted that differences over
Myanmar's human-rights record were likely to cause
more problems in the future.
"These are questions that have to be considered," EU
Director for South and South-East Asia Emiliano Fossati
said on Wednesday, in response to questions on
Myanmar's role at future meetings.
Organisers said a few rounds of golf were the last thing
on the agenda yesterday after three days of meetings this
week which launched a "new dynamic" in Asean-EU
Officials from both sides said the Joint Cooperation
Committee (JCC) meeting had covered subjects from
forestry to narcotics and set up two new
sub-committees on the environment and drugs.
The EU was a strong opponent to Myanmar joining
Asean in July 1997, citing gross human-rights abuses
and its refusal to recognise the result of a 1990 election.
EU officials have refused to sit down at the same table
as Myanmar officials, causing the cancellation of two
A foreign ministers' meeting that was to have been held
in Berlin earlier this year was also cancelled for the same
The compromise which permitted Myanmar to join this
week's talks in a "passive" role would have to be
reconsidered for any ministerial meetings as well as the
next JCC meeting in Europe, officials said.
Yangon officials face a visa ban in Europe under EU
restrictions imposed to punish alleged human-rights
violations by the junta.
The sanctions were first applied in 1996 and effectively
block Asean from attending talks in Europe, which has
shown no inclination to soften its stance against Yangon.
"Our position will change when we believe there has
been sufficient change in Burmese attitudes," Mr Fossati
said, using the old name for Myanmar.
Political talks between the blocs have been at a standstill
since 1997, but officials said the next ministerial meeting
could take place on the sidelines of a forthcoming Asean
meeting in Singapore in July.
"The decision to convene a new political meeting is to be
taken at the political level," Mr Fossati said.
"So this issue of Myanmar could be again examined in a
few months from now."
Apart from Myanmar, Asean comprises Brunei,
Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines,
Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. -- AFP