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ASEAN's new rules against errant members worries junta

Myanmar is worried about efforts by SE Asia's main bloc to create rules that could allow for disciplinary action against errant members.

india Updated: Jan 15, 2007 13:36 IST
Associated Press
Associated Press

Military-ruled Myanmar is worried about efforts by Southeast Asia's main bloc to create new rules that could allow for disciplinary action against errant members, Indonesia's foreign minister said on Monday.

Leaders of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed at their annual summit over the weekend to let a high-level panel draft a joint regional charter that could be completed by late 2007.

Government-appointed advisers say members that breach ASEAN's principles could have their rights and privileges suspended -- or even be expelled in extreme cases.

Myanmar has been internationally criticised because of its failure to democratise and to release political prisoners, and its possible objections to proposals in the charter could block ASEAN -- which currently practices decision-making by consensus -- to adopt any strict regulations.

"From what they (Myanmar) mentioned at the various discussions, I can say that it is an issue of concern to them," Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda told the agency on the sidelines of a broader regional summit of 16 Asian leaders, including Myanmar's Prime Minister Gen Soe Win.

Wirayuda stressed the ASEAN charter was still in the planning stage, but added that Indonesia "supports basically the idea of strengthening the compliance of member states to the principles, policies and decisions of ASEAN."

Indonesia also has proposed that ASEAN establish a three-country committee tasked with finding new ways to constructively engage Myanmar and spur it to fulfill its promise to implement democratic reforms, Wirayuda said.

ASEAN cannot abandon Myanmar because the region's interests are closely linked with the nation, Wirayuda said, adding that the recent US effort to bring Myanmar's situation to the UN Security Council illustrates growing international concern.

"Perhaps in a way, the US move was a good lesson for Myanmar and for ASEAN, instead of distancing ourselves from our member country that has become an international concern," Wirayuda said.

Washington had introduced a UN resolution -- vetoed by China and Russia last Friday -- calling on Myanmar to release all political prisoners and speed up progress toward democracy.

Beijing and Moscow argued that the UN's most powerful body was not the right place to discuss Myanmar because it does not pose a threat to international peace and security.

Myanmar's current junta took power in 1988 after crushing a pro-democracy movement.

In 1990, it refused to hand over power when Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won a landslide election victory.

Since then, the Nobel laureate has been in and out of detention, and she is currently kept in near-solitary confinement at her home.

First Published: Jan 15, 2007 13:23 IST