Thailand will not interfere in Burma

Feb 8, 2008 (AP), Thailand’s newly elected government will maintain a policy of noninterference in military-ruled Burma, the foreign minister said Thursday, adding that democracy and human rights are "domestic issues."

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said Thailand will work within the framework of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations but "will have to respect Myanmar’s sovereignty."

Burma has been ruled by the military since 1962, and its ruling junta is widely criticized for human rights abuses and failure to hand over power to a democratically elected government.

Burma’s crisis attracted world attention last September when Buddhist monks led anti-government protests, the biggest in two decades. The government detained thousands and killed at least 31 people, according to a UN investigator, whose tally was twice the toll acknowledged by the junta.

"We are not a headmaster who can tell Myanmar to do this or that," Noppadon said in his first press conference since becoming foreign minister. "The development of democracy and protection of human rights are Myanmar’s internal affairs."

"If working through an ASEAN framework can help Myanmar’s democracy flourish, we will do it," he said.

ASEAN allowed Burma to join a decade ago, hoping that membership would inspire change in the country.

Following September’s crackdown, Western countries tightened sanctions against Burma’s military government, but ASEAN countries have done little to step up pressure.

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