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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        3  February 2011

U.S. continues pressure on Myanmar

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The United States said Wednesday it was premature to ease sanctions on Myanmar and urged the regime to take more steps following the recent elections .

Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said after a trip to consult Southeast Asian nations that the United States was broadly disappointed with Myanmar but committed to maintain dialogue.

"Several Southeast Asian nations have come out saying it's time to lift sanctions. We have stated very clearly we think that that is obviously premature," Campbell told reporters.

"We are looking for much more concrete steps from the new government as they form a new government policy on a host of issues," he said.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, this week convened a military-dominated parliament that the regime sees as a key step in its so-called roadmap to democracy.

But Western nations and the opposition have cried foul, charging that elections last year were rigged to sideline pro-democracy forces and ethnic minorities.

Campbell said that the United States stood behind opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in her calls for the military to make clear its intentions.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy swept the last elections in 1990 but was never allowed to take power. The military released the Nobel Peace laureate in November after years under house arrest, but only after the elections.

Campbell in 2009 opened dialogue with the military, part of the effort by President Barack Obama's administration to reach out to US adversaries.

"We have been disappointed, basically, across the spectrum," Campbell said, insisting the administration has never tried to "oversell" the fruits of engagement.

"It is also the case, however, that we believe a degree of engagement serves the best interests of the United States and our regional policy," he said.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

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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