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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        18  June 2011

EU team heads to Myanmar

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A European Union team is heading to Myanmar for exploratory talks with the country's new authorities, a senior EU diplomat said Friday.

"This is a first stage aimed at listening to the new Myanmar authorities to gauge their mindset," the diplomat said. "All partners concerned by Myanmar have sent, or will be sending, missions to test the new authorities."

Robert Cooper, special adviser to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, and EU special envoy for Burma-Myanmar Piero Fassino, could be in Myanmar as early as this weekend, another EU source said.

In Yangon, a spokesman for Aung San Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), said the democracy icon and Nobel peace laureate would meet the EU pair on Tuesday or Wednesday.

"We are trying to fix the date," Nyan Win told AFP. "We have to welcome this visit," he added, hailing the arrival of "the first EU delegation (who) will meet with the important persons here."

"We will also submit what we have to submit," he said.

Myanmar's military handed over power in March to a nominally civilian government. That and the release last year of Suu Kyi after the first election in 20 years sparked cautious hopes of gradual reform in Myanmar, ruled by the military for nearly half a century.

In April, European governments extended by a year a set of trade and financial sanctions on Myanmar -- but opened the door to the Burmese foreign minister as an inducement to accelerate change.

Debate over whether to soften sanctions against Myanmar was stoked last November with the release of democracy icon Suu Kyi from house arrest.

Suu Kyi herself has said sanctions should remain in place until there is real democratic reform and the EU, on opting to maintain them in April, expressed hopes of "a greater civilian character of the government."

But the bloc lifted for a year a visa ban and asset freeze for "certain civilian members of the government," including the minister.

The United Nations this week announced that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would soon name a full-time special envoy to Myanmar to encourage the government on the reform path.

Oxford-educated Suu Kyi swept the NLD to a landslide election win in 1990, but the military regime never accepted the result and she spent much of the past two decades a prisoner in her own home.

Her party boycotted the November 7 elections, saying the rules were unfair. Suu Kyi was excluded from the vote, won by the military's political proxies.


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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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