Thu, 02 Oct 2003

RI says Myanmar issue not to overshadow ASEAN Summit: Hassan

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja The Jakarta Post Jakarta

Indonesia says the Myanmar issue will not overshadow the upcoming Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Bali as all member countries have hailed recent developments in the military-ruled country.

However, Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda said Wednesday that Indonesia hoped further steps would be taken by Myanmar to fully release prodemocratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi before the Summit begins on Oct. 7.

"Myanmar fully understands the expectations of Indonesia and other ASEAN member countries and we see the current house arrest status for Suu Kyi as a positive gesture by the junta," he said.

"All ASEAN member countries appreciate the recent developments in Myanmar and we will focus on the ASEAN agenda."

Speaking to journalists after a limited Cabinet meeting presided over by President Megawati Soekarnoputri, Hassan expressed hope that Suu Kyi would be released before the summit.

"Even if there are no further steps, Prime Minister Khin Nyunt can use the opportunity of the Summit to explain the recent situation in his country," he added.

Indonesia, the current ASEAN chair, has been pressuring Myanmar to release Suu Kyi immediately, saying her arrest should not overshadow the meeting.

Indonesia's special envoy Ali Alatas has just returned from Myanmar to push for the democratization process in the country, including the release of Suu Kyi, who was arrested on May 30.

After Alatas' visit, she was placed under house arrest after undergoing major surgery.

"The upcoming Summit will be a good opportunity for Myanmar to further disclose its democratization road map to other ASEAN members," Hassan said.

Meanwhile in Yangon, United Nations special envoy to Myanmar Razali Ismail met Suu Kyi at her house, the first independent figure to see her since her shift to house arrest last week.

Razali entered the democracy icon's famous lakeside home on University Avenue after spending an hour in separate talks with Khin Nyunt, Agence France-Presse reported.

Razali is on a crucial three-day mission to Myanmar to secure the release of Suu Kyi and to restart the national reconciliation process abandoned earlier this year.

He now faces the difficult task of reviving the contacts and advancing a seven-point "roadmap" for democratic reform unveiled by Khin Nyunt in August.

Singapore called on Wednesday for Myanmar to lift all restrictions on Suu Kyi and said her plight would be raised at the Bali meeting.

"All restrictions on Aung San Suu Kyi should be lifted so that the national reconciliation process can move forward," a foreign affairs ministry spokesman said.

Hassan said the Summit would issue a document on Bali Concord II, which would draw up the concepts of the ASEAN Security Community, ASEAN Economic Community and ASEAN Social and Cultural Community.

"This will be a historical leap for ASEAN, and it will be a new blueprint for the regional grouping until 2020."

Hassan said the concepts of the document had been agreed by all ASEAN foreign ministers during their previous meeting in New York.

"There are only a few details that will be further discussed during meetings between senior officials and ministers ahead of the Summit next week."

Several other documents that will be signed at the meeting include those on the accession of China and India at the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), an antiterrorism agreement between ASEAN and India, a strategic partnership between ASEAN and China, as well as an agreement of cooperation between ASEAN and Japan.

"Russia has originally been scheduled to join TAC at the summit, but due to the approval process from their parliament, the accession should wait until June next year," Hassan added.

A series of meetings will begin on Thursday and 14 heads of states, including Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, are expected to attend the meeting.

Indonesia will also host the first ever ASEAN Business and Investment Summit on Oct. 6 following the informal meetings, aimed at opening communications among ASEAN businesspeople.

The Bali Summit will be guarded by around 5,000 security forces to prevent possible disruptions.