ASEAN envoy insists on meeting Aung San Suu Kyi
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ASEAN envoy insists on meeting Aung San Suu Kyi

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Albar said he would insist on seeing detained democracy leader when he visits Myanmar as an ASEAN representative.

world Updated: Jan 09, 2006 17:31 IST

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said on Monday that he would insist on seeing detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi when he visits Myanmar as a representative of ASEAN.

Myanmar raised hackles last week when it said it was too busy moving its capital to receive the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) envoy, who had been expected to visit Yangon this month to check on progress towards democracy.

Syed Hamid said he hoped the visit would go ahead in late February or early March, and sidestepped suggestions that his insistence on seeing Aung San Suu Kyi had triggered the delay.

"They didn't give that as a reason but I told them, if I go to Myanmar I have to see all the political parties in Myanmar," he told the age. "Otherwise I think we would lose our credibility.

"Of course I would like to see Aung San Suu Kyi," he said and added that the Yangon regime "did not give me any assurance" that a meeting would go ahead.

The democracy icon is being detained at her lakeside residence in Yangon and a visit by Syed Hamid would effectively break her enforced silence of more than two years.

The minister said the stonewalling by the junta over the visit, which was agreed at the 10-nation ASEAN's summit last December, was regrettable.

"I think it does not reflect well. It may be sending a wrong message to the international community, this is our concern and I have conveyed those concerns," he said.

"I don't think it's good for Myanmar to be isolated. This is what ASEAN is trying to do, to encourage it to interact. But we need to know what is happening."

Syed Hamid revealed some frustration with the shadowy Myanmar regime over attempts to schedule the visit.

"I mentioned to them that they were the ones who gave the date and said that the best time to come is in January," he said.

"I thought that the best thing is for me to communicate directly with the foreign minister, and he explained to me (the delay was) because of their move to the capital.

"I accept it at face value but I think we would like to visit as soon as possible, maybe some time in late February or early March. So we hope it can happen as soon as possible."

Southeast Asian nations, which have been criticised for being too soft on Myanmar, stepped up their rhetoric at the December summit, demanding democratic reforms and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from their fellow member.

"Our concern at the last summit was to see that we would be able to explain to the international community in a very credible way... that there is progress on what's happening in Myanmar," Syed Hamid said.

"So I think the best thing for Myanmar to do is to cooperate," he said. "If they want us to speak on their behalf then we need the ammunition."

First Published: Jan 09, 2006 17:31 IST