ASEAN should expel Myanmar: Singaporean lawmaker

May 26th, 2009 - 3:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangkok, May 26 (DPA) The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has failed in its efforts to make Myanmar more democratic and should consider expelling it, as well as imposing limited sanctions, a Singaporean politician said Tuesday.
The ASEAN intended to reform Myanmar, also known as Burma, when it voted it into the regional grouping in 1997, but that has failed, Charles Chong, a 21-year member of Singapore’s parliament, said Tuesday.

“ASEAN has failed to influence Burma in any way,” Chong said. “ASEAN must consider, regretfully, suspending Burma from the association.”

He said limited sanctions - such as freezing the assets of members of Myanmar’s ruling junta - should also be considered although that could prove problematic because they could “hurt the people more than the government”.

Chong added his voice to a growing chorus condemning Myanmar’s human rights record, and most currently the trial of independence icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

Chong spoke at a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Bangkok where the campaign “Free Burma’s Political Prisoners Now!” said more than 650,000 people from more than 200 countries and territories have signed their petition since it was launched March 13.

The petition calls on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to “make it his personal priority to secure the release of all political prisoners in Burma”.

Myanmar joined ASEAN in 1997 amid staunch objections from the EU and US and considerable debate within ASEAN itself. In addition to Myanmar, the regional grouping includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Myanmar’s membership has been controversial since day one and has been reignited with the current trial of Suu Kyi.

“We don’t want to be drawn down to the level of Burma,” Chong said of ASEAN.

Chong made it clear he was expressing his personal views and not speaking for the Singapore government, but said behind the scenes there is growing frustration with the junta in Myanmar.

Myanmar’s military regime ranks among the world’s pariah states. It has kept Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, under house arrest for 13 of the past 19 years.

Myanmar legal expert said her current detention term is set to expire Wednesday, but a Myanmar police brigadier general claimed Tuesday the term was not due to end until Nov 27.

She faces another three to five years in prison if she is found guilty of allowing US national John William Yettaw, 53, to swim into her compound-cum-prison on Yangon’s Inya Lake earlier this month.

Suu Kyi has been charged with breaking the terms of her detention, a charge that carries a minimum of three years in jail and a maximum of five.

Her trial continued Tuesday.

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