Tuesday, August 18, 2009

ASEAN officials to discuss Suu Kyi amnesty

18 August 2009

SINGAPORE: Regional officials will discuss a proposed joint call for Myanmar to free democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi during a meeting in Jakarta later this week, a diplomatic source said Tuesday.

Thailand, the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said Friday it was pushing for a consensus among member states to ask Myanmar's military rulers to pardon Suu Kyi.

"We will discuss it at a senior officials' meeting this week in Jakarta," the source, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

The meeting will be held Thursday and Friday in the Indonesian capital, the diplomat said.

"We support it, but I don't know if all ASEAN (members) support it," the diplomat said, when asked about his country's position. "There's nothing firm, only a proposal so far," he added.

US Senator Jim Webb, in an interview with CNN on Monday after a visit to Myanmar, said he understood that ASEAN was working on the proposal to seek amnesty for Suu Kyi.

Webb had met with Myanmar's reclusive ruler, Senior General Than Shwe, during his trip.

ASEAN has faced frequent criticism for taking a soft line on its most troublesome member, but Webb indicated the bloc could be about to toughen its stance.

"I am of the understanding that we are possibly going to see from ASEAN... a petition of some sort that would ask for amnesty for her as well, which would be a major step forward in resolving the situation," he said.

The 64-year-old Suu Kyi was found guilty last week of breaching the terms of her house arrest after an eccentric American man, John Yettaw, swam to her lakeside villa in May and stayed there for two days.

Myanmar military leader Than Shwe commuted her sentence to 18 months under house arrest, but this would still rule her out of elections due to be held next year.

International anger erupted at Myanmar after Tuesday's verdict, but ASEAN's reaction was typically muted, expressing only "deep disappointment."

Yettaw flew out of Myanmar on Sunday with Webb, who secured the former military veteran's release from a sentence of seven years' hard labour.

ASEAN leaders will hold their next summit from October 23-25 in the Thai beach resort of Hua Hin. As well as Myanmar, ASEAN also groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

- AFP/yb

No comments: