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US-Asean Ties:
US envoy urges Asean to take action against Myanmar junta

The United States' policy of intensive engagement with Southeast Asia will likely continue under the Obama administration, despite persistent concerns about Myanmar, the US envoy to Asean was quoted by Singapore’s Straits Time newspaper as saying Thursday.

Noting Myanmar junta’s recent arrest of more than 100 of its critics, and the long jail terms meted out to some of them, Marciel urged Asean to take action under the new Asean Charter. The charter, which has been ratified by all 10 Asean member nations, commits the countries to uphold democracy and human rights.

But the US envoy said the group has so far done nothing about the latest political suppression in Myanmar.

“You set out these ambitious goals, you created these standards in the charter but...I think it’s a major issue for Asean that one of its members is blatantly violating the fundamental rules of the charter, and so far Asean has been quiet about it,” Marciel said, adding that he would raise the subject with his Asean colleagues.

“There has been, for years, strong bipartisan support for intensive US engagement in Southeast Asia and with Asean. I don't see any signs that that would change,” Scot Marciel told The Straits Times in an interview.

Marciel, who is also Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia since June last year, pointed out that the US-Asean relationship has made significant strides in the past eight years under President George W Bush.

“Business investment, trade, education cooperation, cooperation on the environment, health care – it’s expanding in all those areas,” he said.

He noted two-way trade rose to $172 billion last year from $120 billion in 1997. Asean has become the US’ fourth largest export market.

The US is the first country among Asean’s 10 dialogue partners to assign a permanent representative to the bloc.

Since taking on the job, Marciel, a 49-year-old career diplomat, said he has visited the region once every six weeks on average. In September alone, he was in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.

He is in Singapore during the week to meet his Asean counterparts at twice-yearly discussions on areas of cooperation, called the Informal Coordinating Mechanism.

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