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ASEAN may seek China, India's help in Myanmar

Southeast Asian countries may ask regional powers China and India to help push the military-ruled nation towards democracy.

india Updated: Mar 30, 2006 11:03 IST

Southeast Asian countries may ask regional powers China and India to help push Myanmar toward democracy, a top official of Southeast Asia's regional bloc said on Thursday.

"We can talk to other people who matter to Myanmar," Association of Southeast Asian Nations Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

"Maybe Myanmar feels that ASEAN is not in a position to dictate terms to them. I think we should ask our friends in China and India to be more persuasive," he said.

Ong's comments reflect a growing feeling in the 10-member ASEAN group that it is powerless to force the military rulers of member nation Myanmar to hand over power to a civilian government and free hundreds of political dissidents including Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

That belief was reinforced when Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar visited Myanmar last week, as an ASEAN envoy, to monitor the progress of democracy.

Syed Hamid said he saw little signs of change, and expressed frustration at not being allowed to meet with Suu Kyi.

Syed Hamid has in the past suggested the group ask China and India for help.

China wields enormous strategic and economic clout over Myanmar, and is its main ally.

Neighbouring India also has been courting Myanmar as an economic partner. But both countries have refused to chide the ruling junta for its failure to restore democracy.

"ASEAN loves to look after everybody's ego and interests. There is very limited space for us to manoeuvre on this issue. We can't be nasty to our own brothers and sisters in Myanmar," Ong said.

First Published: Mar 30, 2006 11:03 IST