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Myanmar vows to sign ASEAN charter

Myanmar foreign minister says his country would sign the landmark ASEAN charter, including the document's commitments to democracy and human rights.

world Updated: Nov 20, 2007 12:02 IST

Myanmar Foreign Minister Nyan Win on Monday said that his military-ruled country would sign the landmark Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) charter, including the document's commitments to democracy and human rights.

"We agree with the charter," Nyan Win said. "We will sign it."

The assurance -- the first by any Myanmar official -- was given to reporters in Singapore at the ASEAN leaders summit. Analysts said it should end speculation that Myanmar might baulk over the charter's sensitive sections.

The foreign ministers representing 10 member countries of the bloc were pouring over the final draft of the charter ahead of Tuesday's signing.

The charter is to give the 40-year-old group legal status and commit its member countries to progress in human rights.

Doubts about Myanmar's stance on the charter had lingered nearly two months after its bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters that shocked the world and triggered calls for ASEAN to suspend the country.

ASEAN leaders have made it clear there would be no suspension or expulsion and that Myanmar's problems were being treated as an errant member of a "family".

Meanwhile, in a report published Monday, UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari judged that Myanmar has yet to reach the "point of no return" for national reconciliation.

However, he stated that some progress has been made since the military junta launched its September crackdown on peaceful protests led by Buddhist monks and students.

Detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi "has said that the signs are promising, and it appears to her that the regime seems to be more seriously committed to dialogue and to move the situation forward," the report quoted Gambari as saying in New York prior to leaving for Singapore.

Gambari is set to brief the East Asian Summit, an expanded group of the 10 ASEAN members plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

ASEAN consists of Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo said his ASEAN and East Asian counterparts were looking forward to Gambari's briefing.

"His good offices are very important for the process of national reconciliation in Myanmar, and we're looking forward to it," he told reporters on Monday before meeting with the task force that drafted the ASEAN charter to be signed by leaders.

Answering questions on whether the charter would be effective, Yeo said, "It will take us a step forward."

After meeting top junta officials during his recent visits to Myanmar, Gambari said there was a feeling in the country that the status quo was both "unsustainable and undesirable".

He noted a significant change in the attitudes of ASEAN, China and India in dealing with Myanmar. "They have spoken in ways they have never spoken before," he said.

"But primarily the solution to the problems of Myanmar lies with the government and people of the country with the support of ASEAN, the UN and international community," Gambari told the newspaper. "It is not a point of no return, yet, in Myanmar. There is hope."

First Published: Nov 19, 2007 13:23 IST