Australian Foreign Minister Joint press conference with Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya-Burma Asean chair

One final question from Australia.

QUESTION: Is there any minimum requirement that both countries have set for Burma to be able to host ASEAN. Is it the release of political prisoners?

KASIT PIROMYA: I think it is not related only to the Myanmar becoming the chair of ASEAN in the year 2014.

One has to go back and look at the seven point roadmaps and see the developments especially since the general elections in Myanmar on the 7th of November last year. And second, I think the whole obligation of Myanmar under the ASEAN charter and I think the community building.

All of this has to be looked into in totality and as well as the Myanmar obligation to itself, to the ASEAN Community, in terms of the reputability, respectability and also the internal cohesion of the ASEAN community.

All of this has to be looked at. Hopefully that there will be further developments, post- 7 November, especially the outstanding issues of I think first, the release of all the remaining political prisoners.

Second, in general, the overall freedom on liberalisation of the whole political process as well as, I think, the long awaited dialogue between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on behalf of the opposition and so on with the newly installed government of Myanmar as part of the whole thrust of reconciliation and national building which Thailand, as one of the closest neighbours and ASEAN as a whole, have to play a role in the supporting side of it.

KEVIN RUDD: On the question of Burma hosting, hosting or chairing ASEAN, that of course, is a matter for the ASEAN states of which we are not one.

Let me make some broader remarks about the future needed changes in Burma, generally.

The Foreign Minister, quite correctly, has pointed to the outstanding incarceration of some 2,000 political prisoners.

Secondly, a much freer environment for the conduct of the political discourse of the Burmese nation needs to occur.

And thirdly, attention needs to be given to the outstanding challenges for those individuals who now find themselves on the Thai-Burmese border, on the Burmese side who are being denied humanitarian assistance.

These are just some questions – I don’t make, this is not a definitive list – just some questions which the Burmese regime will need to deal with.

From our point of view, as the government of Australia, we have an open mind in terms of the future of sanctions against the Burmese regime.

But we will not be making any decision on that matter until we have some confidence that things are beginning to track in the right direction in Burma itself.

And on that, we are very mindful of the stated position of Aung San Suu Kyi and other democracy activists within Burma in terms of the future of our Australian national sanctions regime against the Burmese leadership.

Thanks ladies and gentlemen for your time, for attending and for your standing out in the rain.

Thank you very much.


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‘Political situation in Burma needs to improve’

By Jim Pollard
The Nation on Sunday
Published on May 15, 2011

The possibility of Burma chairing Asean in 2014 and humanitarian concern over hundreds of thousands of displaced people in eastern Burma were among a range of matters discussed yesterday by Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd.

Kasit and Rudd spoke to reporters after having lunch at the Australian Embassy in Bangkok. The former Australian PM, now foreign minister, flew to Thailand early yesterday.

Kasit said Asean was obliged to consider the “totality” of Burma’s bid to chair the regional body in 2014.

“The credibility and respectability of Asean has to be looked at,” he said.

Other issues that had to be considered included the possible release of political prisoners, as well as the liberalisation of the political process, and dialogue with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Kasit said.

The request by Burma for the Asean chair was discussed at the Asean summit last weekend but no decision is expected till later in the year.

Rudd said: “Australia wants to see continued and sustained improvement in Burma. We have deep concerns about the 2,000-plus political prisoners in detention.

“We are very glad that our friend and colleague [Indonesian foreign minister] Marty Natalegawa will visit there soon [to assess developments since the election last November].”

The Australian foreign minister avoided comment on the recent clashes on the Thai-Cambodian border, saying the situation was “a matter between the two countries”.

But he said they discussed the situation on the Thai-Burma border in detail and noted that Australia had given close to US$10 million (Bt300 million) over recent years to support the 140,000 refugees in nine camps along the border.

But there were challenges, he said, to provide support to a large number of people, which he put at several hundred thousand, “existing in a virtual no-man’s land” – displaced in eastern Burma.

Rudd said he had an “open mind” about whether to drop sanctions against Burma’s controversial military regime, but warned “we won’t make that decision unless things are going in the right direction”.

The pair also discussed changes to the East Asia Summit, which will be bolstered shortly by the presence of Russia and the US.

Rudd said trade between Thailand and Australia now totalled more than $20 billion and had enjoyed double-digit growth every year since the signing of a free-trade agreement in 2005.

“Our relationship has grown stronger over 60 years of diplomatic ties,” he said.

Burma:The UN Envoy should not overestimate Burma’s new President by U Zin Linn

A visiting top UN official said Thursday that recent signals from Burma’s new army-backed government were “very encouraging”, after talks with democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi, AFP reported Friday.

“The government has made some very interesting statements… which are very encouraging,” Vijay Nambiar, chief of staff to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, told reporters after meeting Suu Kyi.

Vijay Nambiar, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Burma (Myanmar), wrapped up a visit to Burma on Friday. He met with senior members of the country’s newly formed Government and the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD).

Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, left , welcomes Vijay Nambiar,right , chief of staff for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, at her home Thursday, May.12, 2011, in Yangon, Myanmar. Pic: AP.

Vijay Nambiar said that during the three-day visit he highlighted the significance of the Government implementing its stated commitments on such issues as governance, human rights, the rule of law and sustainable development.

In a press statement issued in Rangoon, Burma’s former capital, Mr. Nambiar noted that expectations are high both domestically and internationally that the Government will soon take “concrete steps” to meet those commitments, as said by the UN News Centre. Continue reading “Burma:The UN Envoy should not overestimate Burma’s new President by U Zin Linn”