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Malaysia minister says Myanmar trip a success

Written by: Staff

KUALA LUMPUR, Mar 26: Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar considered his trip to military-ruled Myanmar this week a success although he did not get to meet democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, a newspaper reported today.

Syed Hamid, making the trip as an envoy of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said Myanmar's junta was trying to show to the outside world it was moving on a roadmap to democracy and had given him a list of actions it would take in this direction.

''I told them that it would have been better if I had been allowed to meet Suu Kyi and other political leaders as it would be a step towards their democratic reform,'' he was quoted as saying by the New Sunday Times after his trip on Thursday.

''The reason given for the prohibition was that Suu Kyi is under house arrest and nobody is allowed to see her.'' Syed Hamid will report next month to the foreign ministers of the 10-member ASEAN, which has become increasingly frustrated by the slow progress on the seven-step ''roadmap to democracy'', currently focused on a constitutional conference that critics say is designed to entrench military rule.

Criticism of Myanmar from ASEAN has also grown substantially as Suu Kyi, leader of the main opposition party and a Nobel peace laureate, remains confined to her home nearly three years after her May 2003 arrest.

During the brief trip, Syed Hamid met Prime Minister Soe Win, but did not meet junta chief Than Shwe.

Syed Hamid said he explained to the premier that Myanmar must convince everyone it was serious about establishing a road map to democracy.

''While ASEAN has a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states, we sent across a message that they need to convince not only ASEAN but the international community that they are making democratic progress,'' he said.

The latest session of the constitutional conference, boycotted by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy and the third since 2004, was adjourned in January and is not expected to reconvene until the end of the year.


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