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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