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 20 Feb 2008

Thailand to raise Myanmar issue at ASEAN retreat

Thailand's Foreign Minister assured a visiting senior United Nations official on Tuesday that the country is willing to support UN efforts to restore national reconciliation in Myanmar and that the kingdom will raise the issue at a regional ministerial meeting in Singapore.

Speaking to journalists after UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro paid a courtesy call on him in Bangkok, Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama reaffirmed that Thailand, as an incoming chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), would raise the Myanmar issue in discussions with his counterparts in the Singapore retreat, Thai News Agency reported.

ASEAN foreign ministers gather at Singapore's Sentosa Island Tuesday for their annual retreat focussing on implementation of the 10-nation group's charter and speeding-up its integration.

The two-day gathering is also to focus on regional developments, a statement from Singapore's Foreign Affairs Ministry said.

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

Mr. Noppodon also said that he assured Ms. Migiro that Thailand is willing to support the mission of UN special envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari as he returns to the neighbouring country.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon assigned Mr. Gambari as his special adviser, to pursue continued cooperation with the Myanmar leaders and all relevant parties to the national reconciliation process to making tangible progress towards the restoration of democracy and the protection of human rights in Myanmar. 
Mr. Gambari returned to Myanmar for his second visit last November since the September anti-government protests in which scores of protesters were killed.
The UN deputy secretary-general urged Thailand to play an active role in a process which will transform Myanmar to democracy and national reconciliation through a national referendum on a draft constitution in May that will lead to a general election which she described as a positive move, the Thai foreign minister said.

Myanmar's leaders announced in early February that they would hold a referendum on a new constitution in May followed by elections in 2010, a move critics said was aimed at deflecting pressure after last year's crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in the Asian country.




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