Myanmar seeks Saarc membership

May 20th, 2008 - 10:34 am ICT by admin  

Dhaka, May 20 (IANS) Myanmar has formally requested membership of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc). Its bid has the support of India, the current chair, a newspaper here said quoting unnamed diplomatic sources. Yangon had officially written to the Saarc Secretariat in March, seeking to become a full member, the New Age reported Tuesday. The matter may come up before the 15th Saarc Summit due to be held July 27-Aug 3 in Colombo.

If admitted, Myanmar would be the ninth member of a body that was initially conceived in the mid-1980s as a grouping of seven - Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Maldives. Afghanistan became its eighth member last year.

Myanmar is already a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

Ruled by a military junta, it has faced international criticism for long for suppressing democratic forces and imprisoning its best known politician, Nobel laureate Ayung San Suu Kyi.

The regime is currently planning its second round of a vote in a referendum that seeks to give the military a permanent, institutionalised role in the country’s governance.

Apart from Myanmar, Australia has also written to the Saarc Secretariat for an observer status.

The US, European Union, South Korea, China, Japan, Iran and Mauritius now enjoy the status of observer in the South Asian grouping.

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