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ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Vientiane should not botch the opportunity to send a clear and unmistakable message to Myanmar military junta  that the ASEAN Chair  for Myanmar is unacceptable regionally and internationally and beyond its reach unless there are  meaningful and acceptable democratic reforms and national reconciliation

Media  Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Penang, Sunday): The ASEAN Foreign Minister’s Meeting in Vientiane beginning tomorrow should not botch the opportunity to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Myanmar military junta that its full ASEAN membership will be contingent on meaningful and acceptable democratic reforms and national reconciliation in Burma.

Malaysian Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said it was “regrettable” that United States  Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is skipping the Asean meeting in Vientiane, the first time that the ASEAN Regional Forum will be given a “miss” by the US Secretary of State since it was launched in 1994.

Whatever the merit or demerit of Rice’s skipping of the Laotian  Asean Ministerial meeting, it will be even more “regrettable” if the question  of the ASEAN Chair is left open without any decision, or even more disastrous, if there is  ASEAN acquiescence  in a Myanmar Chair of ASEAN  2006 – plunging ASEAN on a course of confrontation with the United States and the European Union.

Malaysia’s takeover of the ASEAN Chair and the inaugural East Asia Summit to be hosted by Malaysia at the end of the year will be haunted by the Myanmar question if the issue of ASEAN Chair 2006 is not resolved or handled satisfactorily at the ASEAN Ministerial meeting in Vientiane.

Syed Hamid’s statement that if Myanmar decided to give up the chair of Asean this time, it would be given the chance to beat the queue to chair the organisation in the next round without waiting for its turn in the alphabetical order, is most disturbing as it completely  ignores the strong and abiding  reasons for the objections to Myanmar assuming the ASEAN Chair.


This is why it is important that the Myanmar military junta must get the clear and unmistakable message that so long as there is no meaningful and acceptable democratic reforms, like the release of Burmese Opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the more than 1,000 political prisoners in the country, and national reconciliation with the ethnic nationalities, the ASEAN Chair must remain as  elusive as ever and beyond its  reach as it is not acceptable regionally and  internationally.




*  Lim Kit Siang,Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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