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Myanmar seen holding ASEAN hostage: Malaysia

Written by: Staff
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Putrajaya (Malaysia), Apr 18: Myanmar should stop holding fellow Southeast Asian nations hostage by dragging its feet on democratic reform, Malaysia's foreign minister today said.

Syed Hamid Albar, who visited Myanmar last month as an ASEAN envoy, said Yangon should help group members speak on its behalf more convincingly and with accountability.

''Myanmar has asked ASEAN to help them in the process of telling their side of their story to the international community,'' he said ahead of tomorrow's meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers in Bali.

''But to do that we need to see more substantive progress,'' he told reporters.

''It (Myanmar) has become a hanging issue. That's what the other countries are talking about ASEAN being held hostage to the Myanmar issue.'' Frustrated by Myanmar's glacial pace towards reform, and under pressure to do something about its most awkward member, ASEAN sent Syed Hamid on a mission there last month.

ASEAN officials said while the trip disappointed the 10-member grouping it was not discouraged.

ASEAN had resolved at its summit in December to send an envoy to meet both Myanmar's ruling generals and Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy won elections in 1990 but was denied power by the junta.

Suu Kyi has spent nine of the last 16 years behind bars or under house arrest.

Syed Hamid met the generals, who he has said dismissed Suu Kyi as having no influence. He was not allowed to meet her.

Myanmar has proposed a seven-step ''roadmap to democracy'' but the military, which has ruled the former Burma since 1962, says it is still only midway through the first step, drafting a new constitution, and will not set a timetable.

The West does not treat the roadmap seriously, and Myanmar's neighbours criticise it as too vague and too slow.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Inodonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Today, Malaysian police arrested 82 Myanmarese for protesting outside South Korean embassy in the Malaysian capital, a human rights group said.

Rights group Suaram said the protesters were campaigning against the Shwe natural gas project in Mynamar's Arakan state, which was awarded to Daewoo Corporation. They said the South Korean firm should not support Myanmar's ''repressive'' regime.

REUTERS

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