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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        17 January 2011

Asean pushes for Myanmar boycott end

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The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has agreed unanimously to call on the international community to end its boycott of Burma.

The grouping backed its call by citing Burma's election late last year and the release only a few days later by the military junta of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya raised the issue for talks with other Asean foreign ministers. He said Asean should tell the world that democracy has returned to Burma.

The US placed a ban on all imports from Burma in 2003, while the European Union has placed a raft of sanctions against the country for the past 15 years.

Criticism of the junta has centered on alleged human rights abuses and the placing under house arrest of opposition leader Suu Kyi for 15 of the past 21 years until after last year's general election, Burma's first, in 1990.

Mr. Kasit said Asean should encourage support for Burma's new democracy. The regional grouping should also help bring about national reconciliation, elevate its people's quality of life and promote trade, investment and tourism, he said.

"When Burma becomes a democratic society, it is not the duty of the international community to set up a committee to manage the conflict, like in the past. We have to be confident that Burma can resolve its problems by itself," said Mr Kasit at the Asean Ministerial Meeting, which ends today.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who is Asean chair this year, said the bloc advocated "an immediate or early removal or easing of sanctions that have been applied against [Burma] by some countries".

Mr. Kasit said Asean would encourage the Burmese government to talk with Ms Suu Kyi to help the national reconciliation effort and would seek to persuade Burma's ethnic minority groups to stop fighting with the junta.

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