Myanmar set to sign ASEAN rights charter

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SINGAPORE, Nov 17 (Reuters) Military-ruled Myanmar is set to sign an ASEAN charter on democracy and human rights next week, ASEAN secretary-general Ong Keng Yong said today.

Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein is due to attend the Association of South East Asian Nations summit, the first appearance by a top junta member at an international forum since the regime's crackdown on pro-democracy protests in September.

''All 10 states will sign,'' Ong told Reuters in an interview.

The charter -- to be signed on Tuesday -- will give the 40-year-old grouping legal status and spells out lofty goals for democracy and human rights.

''Myanmar has not fought to take out words like 'human rights' and 'democracy'. They are not against putting these down as an aspiration, but they ask for more time,'' Ong said.

Yesterday, the US Senate voted unanimously to urge ASEAN to suspend Myanmar until the regime shows respect for human rights.

''We cannot resolve this problem with sanctions or a hardline position,'' said Ong, who is nearing the end of a five-year term.

''If you have a troubled child in the family, you can't send it away to the mental house or sanatorium. I think our leaders' instinct will be to see how ASEAN can help Myanmar.'' Ong, 53, said Thein Sein will brief ASEAN leaders during a working dinner on Monday, in which he will review the military regime's ''roadmap to democracy'' as Myanmar has done at every ASEAN summit since 2004.

''Whatever the Myanmar leadership reports this year, it cannot be like what happened in previous years. The world is outraged after the shooting of monks by soldiers,'' Ong said.

ASEAN leaders are set to sign the new charter, a blueprint for an ASEAN Economic Community and a declaration on climate change and the environment, but diplomats expect the summit to be dominated by the Myanmar issue.

On Wednesday, United Nations Myanmar envoy Ibrahim Gambari is due to brief the leaders of the East Asia Summit -- the 10 ASEAN states plus China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand -- about his visit to Myanmar this month.

In a letter to Ong published Human Rights Watch called on ASEAN to establish specific deadlines to implement a binding regional human rights mechanism under its charter.

But Ong said it was too early for that.

''ASEAN has made a start by subscribing to human rights,'' he said. A rights body would be the next step, he said.

ASEAN's 10 members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

REUTERS PY BST2319

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