ASEAN urge Suu Kyi appeal

Aug 21, 2009 (DVB), Senior ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have agreed to urge regional foreign ministers to appeal to Burma for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, following talks in Jakarta.

The meeting follows international outcry over Suu Kyi's sentencing last week to a further 18 months under house arrest, which will keep her in detention beyond the elections next year.

If the appeal is approved, it would mark a break with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' (ASEAN) much criticized policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states.

"We need to convey our legitimate concerns over the case of Aung San Suu Kyi," Imron Cotan, Indonesia’s delegate at the Jakarta meeting, told Reuters.

"Be it in the form of a letter or joint statement it’s up to the foreign ministers to decide."

ASEAN, which is currently chaired by Thailand, has delivered little more than vocal condemnation of Suu Kyi's sentencing.

But with Burma's growing reputation as the thorn in the side of the regional bloc, Thailand expressed fear soon after the trial that the pariah state was "tarnishing" the bloc's image.

The sentencing of Suu Kyi triggered a toughening of sanctions on Burma from the European Union, while the United States recently renewed its embargo on the country.

ASEAN however has consistently refused to issue sanctions, instead opting for a policy of engagement with the regime.

Continued trade with its neighbours, particularly China, has dampened the impact of sanctions. This has been acknowledged by the US, which is in the process of reviewing its policy to Burma.

While a number of Southeast Asian countries are apparently growing impatient with the intransigence of the military junta, there is expected to be resistance over the appeal from member countries such as Laos and Vietnam.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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