Proposal For Visit to Burma Draws Support

A proposal to send an Asean delegation to Burma to promote democracy following the detainment of pro-democracy leader Ang Sun Suu Kyi was met with broad approval by Asean ministers, a foreign minister said Friday.

Philippines Secretary of For­eign Affairs Blas Ople said, at the end of a week of meetings be­tween foreign ministers from Asean and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, that ministers “by and large supported” the proposal.

Ople said he would like to lead the mission and “hold a dialogue to help [the Burmese] speed up the way toward political reform.”

The mission should take place after the release of Suu Kyi, so that the delegation can talk to her as a free person and not as a prisoner, Ople said.

The Burmese delegation en­dured a barrage of criticism during the week over the detainment of Suu Kyi, who has been held in a secret location since a May 30 clash between supporters and attackers left four people dead.

The Burmese government has maintained she is unhurt and is being held for her own safety.

However, the detention of Suu Kyi and many members of her Na­tional League for Democracy has been a blight on the reputation of Asean, observers said this week, be­cause it was with great reluctance on behalf of some original Asean members to admit the country.

Members have implemented a constructive engagement policy for political reform in Burma, which had been working, ministers said during this week’s meetings, until the surprising set-back of Suu Kyi’s detainment, an incident which pushed the envelope of Asean’s strict code not to interfere in internal affairs of member nations.

Ministers said this week that, even though the Suu Kyi issue had been raised with the Bur­mese, the non-interference policy still stood.

“But no country from here on my claim absolute immunity from collegial scrutiny,” Ople wrote in the Manila Bulletin Online publication.

The proposal to send an Asean delegation was made by Indo­nesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda, who is the ­ in­coming chair of Asean. Burma takes the chairmanship in 2006.

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