PHUKET: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should consider expelling Myanmar if it does not release imprisoned Aung San Suu Kyi, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday.
Asked on Thai television whether ASEAN should kick out the military-ruled member state if it does not free the pro-democracy leader, Clinton replied: “It would be an appropriate policy change to consider.”
Myanmar—ASEAN’s problem child since it joined the bloc in 1997 — recently sparked outrage by putting the Nobel peace laureate on trial over an incident in which an American man, John Yettaw, swam to her lakeside house. “I regret deeply this unfortunate incident, which she had nothing to do with, and which served as an excuse for them to put her on trial,” Clinton said, referring to Yettaw’s uninvited intrusion.
The ruling junta snubbed United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon by refusing to let him visit Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon’s notorious Insein prison, deepening concerns in the international community. US President Barack Obama has described the court proceedings as a “show trial” and Myanmar has already been slapped with US sanctions for its detention of political prisoners.
On Tuesday Clinton also said she was “deeply concerned” by reports of human rights in Myanmar, “particularly by actions that are attributed to the Burmese military concerning the mistreatment and abuse of young girls.” Concerns over Myanmar’s possible military cooperation with North Korea are set to dominate discussions at Asia’s biggest security forum in the Thai resort island of Phuket, where Clinton arrived yesterday from Bangkok.
Responding to Clinton, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said his country, an ASEAN member, opposed expelling Myanmar from the bloc.
“We are still in favour of discussing with Myanmar so that they will be serious in implementing the roadmap towards democratisation,” Najib told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.
Myanmar Foreign Minister Nyan Win met his Japanese counterpart Hirofumi Nakasone in Phuket on Wednesday, and the issue of Aung San Suu Kyi came up, a spokesman for the Japanese minister said.
Nakasone urged Myanmar to release all political prisoners, resume dialogue with the opposition and prepare a “positive environment” for elections promised by the ruling generals in 2010, the spokesman said.
Nyan Win “listened very carefully” and explained that Myanmar “did its best to assist” Ban when he visited the country earlier this month, added the spokesman.
Nyan Win said Myanmar’s government “responded as they believed appropriate” to Ban’s request to visit her, the Japanese spokesman said.
Clinton also urged Myanmar to free democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, saying such a move could pave the way for investments from the United States.