'Promote democracy, rights, well-being'
Members of the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) offered yesterday to help Burma promote democracy, human rights and well-being among its people - and avoided mentioning the controversy over pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
"Asean as well as members of the ARF would like to work with Myanmar [Burma] and are ready to assist Myanmar in its efforts to promote democracy, human rights and well-being among her people," said Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya.
"We have asked Myanmar's foreign minister to convey this sentiment to the Myanmar leadership. It is hoped that Myanmar will be responsive to the international community's concerns," said Kasit, in his capacity as chairman of the 16th Asean Regional Forum, which concluded yesterday.
The international community has called on Burma to release all political prisoners, including Suu Kyi, and to include all stakeholders in the democratisation process.
Earlier yesterday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who represented the United States
during the ARF, insisted that Suu Kyi must be released unconditionally.
Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for many years, was charged in May with violating the terms of her confinement by "harbouring" an American who swam to her lakeside house.
Clinton, who used the term "Burma" rather than "Myanmar", also called for a fair and open election in the country next year.
In a related development, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday downplayed a suggestion from Clinton that Burma should be kicked out of Asean because of its poor human rights record.
Abhisit said an isolated Burma would not help the reconciliation and democratisation process in the military-run state. He said Asean would continue to engage Burma and assist with its reconciliation process.
Asked if Asean should expel Burma if it did not free Aung San Suu Kyi, Clinton replied: "It would be an appropriate policy change to consider."
Kasit told a press conference yesterday that the ARF also urged North Korea return to the Six-Party Talks about the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula.
"The goal is to bring about peace and stability to the Korean Peninsula and de-nuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. We urge [North Korea] to return to the Six-Party Talks, to look beyond the past and join others in finding a way forward," Kasit said.
He also told reporters the ARF strongly condemned the bombings last Friday in the Indonesian capital Jakarta. He said the attacks on two US-owned hotels were "a reminder to us that terrorism remains a very real threat to peace and stability - nationally, regionally and internationally".
Security yesterday was tighter than normal on the last day of meetings between Asean foreign ministers and dialogue partners.
Soldiers carrying assault rifles lined up along the road that leads to the media centre at the Laguna Beach Resort, where the closing ceremony took place.
Representatives from the participating countries and Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan were present during the event.
Foreign ministers from the 10 Asean member states met their counterparts from 26 countries and the European Union to discuss political and security matters.
Established in 1994, the ARF consists of 26 countries and the European Union. They are the 10 Asean states, 10 dialogue partners (Australia, Canada, China, the EU, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, and the US), and seven Asia-Pacific nations (Bangladesh, Mongolia, North Korea, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and East Timor).
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The Nation ASEAN offers to help Burma 24 July 2009