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ASEAN Does Not Support Sanctions Against Burma

ASEAN Leaders Say They Do Not Support Sanctions Against Burma

By Luis Ramirez

Some Southeast Asian leaders gathering for a summit in Singapore say they do not support sanctions against Burma following the military government's violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, are preparing to adopt a charter this week.

Leaders of ASEAN are preparing to sign a charter for the 40-year-old organization that among other things calls for its ten members not to interfere in one another's internal affairs.

Following the Burmese military government's bloody crackdown on unarmed demonstrators in September and the massive arrests of dissidents, ASEAN issued a statement expressing revulsion at Burma's actions. It is expected to issue a rebuke of Burma's leaders this week at the summit. However, leaders assembling here Sunday indicated that is as far as the grouping is willing to go.

Laos and Cambodia, which have in the past stated their opposition to getting tough on Burma, told reporters they denounce the sanctions imposed by the United States and other western nations. Singapore's Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, told a U.S. television network (CNBC) his nation, which has turned up pressure on Burma since the crackdown, also opposes sanctions.

"Nobody in Asia supports that. First of all, Myanmar wants to isolate itself," Lee said. "They have themselves closed their doors and we have been trying to get them to open up. So, pushing on this door to close it is not going to cause them grief. Certainly (it's) not going to cause the leaders grief. Secondly, you don't control all the doors."

Nations such as China and India, which have strong trade ties with ASEAN, oppose sanctions. Leaders here note that the two nations would continue to do business with Burma regardless of who else boycotts the country.

The United States Senate on Friday passed a resolution calling on ASEAN to suspend Burma from the organization. Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong on Sunday rejected that call, saying other nations should allow ASEAN - as he put it - "some democracy of ideas" and let the region make its own decisions.

ASEAN comprises Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Burma.


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