Laos, Cambodia slam Myanmar sanctions

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SINGAPORE, Nov 18 (Reuters) Laos and Cambodia condemnned the Western economic sanctions imposed on Myanmar after its brutal crackdown on democracy protests, calling on fellow members of the ASEAN regional bloc to stay out of each other's affairs.

Laos, a poor and landlocked communist state of 6.5 million people, has close political and economic ties with Myanmar. It was the first country Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein visited after his appointment last month.

''We denounce the imposition of sanctions or economic embargoes against Myanmar,'' Lao Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh told Reuters in an interview today ahead of an Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen also rejected sanctions, ahead of a summit in Singapore on Tuesday where ASEAN leaders will sign a charter that calls for promotion of human rights.

''Economy sanctions are no good. They will not make the leaders of Myanmar die, but will lead to disaster for the civilian population. They are counter-productive,'' Hun Sen said in reply to questions at a business forum.

Myanmar's junta in September crushed the biggest pro-democracy protests in nearly 20 years, killing at least 15 people. The crackdown brought condemnation and tougher sanctions from the United States and other Western countries.

The condemnation of sanctions The 10-nation Association of ASEAN -- which Myanmar and neighbouring Laos joined in 1997, and Cambodia in 1999 -- has come under intense international pressure to get tougher on Myanmar.

''All measures taken to address the situation in Myanmar should be in strict conformity with ASEAN's fundamental principles,'' Bouphavanh said through a Lao government translator.

''ASEAN should adhere strictly to its fundamental principles of respecting each other's independence and sovereignty. The ASEAN principle of non-interference is a key element to maintain cohesiveness in ASEAN,'' he said.

Western nations that have imposed sanctions against Myanmar include the United States, Canada and New Zealand.

Singapore state broadcaster Channel News Asia's Web site quoted Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as saying that nobody in Asia supports sanctions against Myanmar.

''It's been tried in Iraq and nobody wants to have an Iraq in Southeast Asia,'' Lee was quoted as saying.

The United States expanded its sanctions against Myanmar's rulers in October, when it added 11 more Myanmar military leaders to a list already facing sanctions, and tightened US export controls to the country.

The tightening of the export controls included a ban on the sale of high-performance computers to Myanmar.

The European Union also agreed in October to strengthen sanctions against Myanmar that included visa bans and asset freezes on generals, an export ban on equipment to sectors involving timber, metals, minerals, semi-precious and precious stones plus import and investment bans on the sectors.

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

But ASEAN Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong told Reuters yesterday that this was unlikely to happen, as ASEAN states believe Myanmar is more likely to take the road to democracy if it stays within ASEAN.

Singapore has banned all outdoor protests and rejected an opposition party's request for a Myanmar pro-democracy protest in the city-state.


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