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27 September 2009
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UN chief calls on Asean to get tougher on Myanmar

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged a ministerial meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to take a tougher line with fellow member Myanmar, reported the Associated Press.

Ban said it is in the best interest of the rest of the 10-member organisation to lean on Myanmar to free political prisoners like democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and ensure that elections scheduled for next year are free and fair.

Last week, Myanmar's ruling junta released at least 25 political detainees so they could participate in the elections, the first in two decades. But Ban said Saturday the release "falls short of expectations."

He said "next year will be critical" and that the association should help guarantee the vote is credible.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who was in New York to attend the 64th UN General Assembly, said Saturday that he would discuss with UN chief problems prevailing in Myanmar and the overall situation on climate change, according to Thai news agency TNA.

Meanwhile, China rapped erstwhile ally Myanmar over violence along the border that pushed tens of thousands of refugees into China last month, as state media reported Myanmar had ordered Chinese citizens to leave the area.

In August, Myanmar's army overran Kokang, a territory that lies along the border with the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan and was controlled for years by an ethnic Chinese militia that paid little heed to the central government.

Many of the refugees were ethnic Chinese, some of whom were Chinese citizens, and complained their houses and businesses had been sacked and looted during the violence.

Earlier this week, Wei Wei, the head of China's foreign ministry's consular affairs department, summoned a Myanmar diplomat to complain about the treatment of Chinese citizens in the area during the clashes, the Foreign Ministry said.

Wei "made representations about harm caused to the rights of Chinese citizens in Myanmar, restated China's position, demanded Myanmar rapidly investigate, punish lawbreakers and report the results to China," the ministry said in a statement on its website (

Myanmar should "take prompt measures, earnestly protect the legal rights of Chinese citizens in Myanmar, and make sure similar incidents do not happen again", it added. Separately, Chinese state media reported Myanmar has asked Chinese citizens to leave the part of the border where August's fighting erupted.

Myanmar has ordered at least 10,000 Chinese citizens who are in the Kokang enclave but have no legal credentials to leave by Monday, the Global Times said, citing local sources.

Rumours spread among Chinese in the border area that fighting could restart soon in areas hit by unrest, the report added. China's foreign ministry declined immediate comment on the latest reports, but on Thursday it had issued a statement warning its citizens about the dangers of Kokang.

"The Foreign Ministry and the Chinese embassy in Myanmar remind Chinese citizens and companies who are already in Northern Myanmar to pay attention to security risks," said the statement, also posted on the ministry's website. The statement suggested Chinese citizens planning to go to the northern part of the former Burma should suspend their trips.

In a separate development, Myanmar's central bank has issued a new 5,000-kyat bill that is to go into circulation on October 1, state media reported Friday.

The bank's announcement of its release of Myanmar's highest denomination note yesterday came at a time when inflation has been rather stable in Myanmar, one of the world's poorest countries. The black market rate for the kyat is now 1,100 to the US dollar, compared with 1,200 kyat to the dollar two years ago.

There is speculation that the issuing of the 5,000-kyat notes might lead to inflation, followed by protests that would give Myanmar's ruling military junta an excuse to postpone a general election scheduled next year, observers in Yangon said. All other currency notes remain in circulation.


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