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Bush prods Southeast Asia to pressure Myanmar

Democratic setbacks in Myanmar was among key concerns that the US president raised in a meeting with Southeast Asian leaders.

india Updated: Nov 18, 2006 18:32 IST

US President George W Bush urged Southeast Asian leaders on Saturday to do more to prod military-ruled Myanmar to move rapidly toward democracy but praised Thailand's efforts to recover from a bloodless coup, officials said.

Democratic setbacks in Myanmar and Thailand were among key concerns that Bush raised in a meeting with Southeast Asian leaders on the sidelines of an annual Pacific Rim summit in Vietnam, officials said.

Participants described the one-hour meeting as lively — punctuated with laughter — but said it turned serious when the issues of Myanmar's human rights record and the September 19 military coup that ousted former Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra came up.

Bush told the seven leaders from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations that conditions in Myanmar were "totally unacceptable," and urged them to do more to help restore democracy, a Philippine official said.

The US leader welcomed Thailand's efforts to restore stability and democracy after its military coup, Philippine presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye told a news briefing.

The ASEAN leaders did not react to Bush's remarks, said Philippine Trade Secretary Peter Favila, who also was at the meeting.

ASEAN has spent years trying to cajole Myanmar's military leaders into being more democratic and less repressive. But little progress has been made.

ASEAN members Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam also belong to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which is holding its summit in Hanoi.