E Timor eyes ‘strong business ties’ with Burma

East Timor’s president said Friday his country is seeking to improve relations with Burma, including commercial ties.

“We want to increase our relations,” President Jose Ramos-Horta said after meeting Burma’s foreign minister during a visit that drew protests over human rights abuses in military-ruled Burma.

“This is in accordance with Timor-Leste policy, which aims to improve relations with neighbouring countries,” Ramos-Horta said.

“And in order to improve commercial ties, Timor-Leste Foreign Minister Zacarias Da Costa will visit Myanmar [Burma] with a business representative soon. The aim is to start a strong commercial relationship with Myanmar,” he said.

Ramos-Horta said East Timor had also urged Burma’s military regime to open a dialogue with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“Timor-Leste’s position, and also that of the international community and ASEAN, is that if the dialogue occurs, then it should aim to free her to become a regular citizen,” he said.

Ramos-Horta, a 1996 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, last year called for a global arms embargo on Burma, claiming that “the deterioration in the political and humanitarian situation calls for a clear response by the international community”.

The visit by Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win was marked by protests, with clashes breaking out between police and human rights activists demanding Suu Kyi’s release.

Dozens of protesters gathered at Dili airport as Nyan Win arrived Friday to meet with Ramos-Horta and other senior officials, protest organisers said.

Scuffles broke out as police seized banners and other written material condemning human rights abuses in Burma, where Nobel laureate and democracy leader Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for years.

“We are here to bring support to our friends in Burma in their struggle to release political prisoners and to stop continuous human rights violations there,” rally coordinator Carolino Marques said.

“Aung San Suu Kyi must be released immediately and the military junta must be toppled as soon as possible.”

A tightly controlled election scheduled in Burma on 7 November has been condemned by activists and the West as a sham aimed at cementing decades of military rule.

Suu Kyi, who has spent much of the past 20 years in detention, is barred as a serving prisoner from standing in the election.

Her National League for Democracy – which won the last election in 1990 but was not allowed to take power – it is boycotting the vote.

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