Thailand reiterates anti-sanctions stance on Burma

July 21, 2009 (DVB), The Thai prime minister has again stressed that sanctions on Burma are ineffective, although he urged the military government to heed international warnings on its human rights record.

Speaking on his weekly television show, Abhisit Vejjajiva urged all Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states to resist pressure from Western countries to commit to sanctions on Burma.

Thailand holds the current revolving chair of the ASEAN bloc, which stipulates a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of member countries.

Mr Vejjajiva's similar comments to UN chief Ban Ki-moon earlier this month that sanctions on Burma were "not useful" coincided with an announcement that Thailand was sending a delegation of 25 businessmen to Burma to explore new investment opportunities in the country.

Despite tough sanctions on the regime by Western countries, including the United States and European Union, Burma's economy continues to benefit from trade and investment with many Southeast Asian countries.

A report released by Burma's Ministry of Planning and Development said that foreign investment in Burma soared from $US172.7 million in the 2007/08 fiscal year to $US984.9 million last year.

Thailand is the leading investor in its extractive sector, and relies on Burma for much of its energy needs.

Thailand has however criticized the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi and said that Burma's credibility was "at stake", and that it was in danger of tarnishing ASEAN's image.

The annual 27-member ASEAN regional forum kicks off today on the Thai island of Phuket, and the issue of Burma is expected to feature in talks attended by the 10 core ASEAN members and other visiting countries, such as China and the United States.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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