01 November, 2007

88-gen student leaders sent a letter to S'pore PM and Asean SG

Burmese dissidents appeal to Asean

Dissidents on Thursday urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to suspend Burmese membership if its leadership continues to ignore international calls for launching a meaningful national reconciliation process.
Leaders of the 88 Generation Students - remnant dissidents from the 1988 anti-military movement - issued a letter to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong and Foreign Minister George Yeo urging Asean to take steps to increase pressure on the Burmese military to start a political dialogue with opposition forces.

Singapore is the current chairman of Asean, and will host Asean's annual summit and preparatory talks on November 17-23. Burma joined Asean in 1997 and has proven a growing embarrassment for the regional grouping.

Even Asean, which has generally maintained a stance of non-interference with one another's internal affairs, was forced to denounce Burma's crackdown on peaceful monk-led demonstrations on September 26-27, that outraged world opinion.

But the 88 Generation Students group said Asean needs to do more to bring the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), as the junta styles itself, to the negotiating table with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other opponents to the regime.

The 88 Generation group, that has lost 40 of its members to arrests between August and September, called on Asean to "consider suspending the SPDC membership in Asean if it continues to ignore the requests of the international community."

Asean includes Brunei, Burma Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

It also called on Asean to reject SPDC's constitution-drafting process, to back the efforts of United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari and to stop selling weapons and intelligence technology to the regime.

The 88 Generation letter, made available in Bangkok, was signed by Tun Myint Aung, Nilar Thein, and Soe Htun.

Meanwhile, in New York, the UN announced that Gambari will go to Burma on Saturday and will remain until November 8.

UN spokesperson Michelle Montas said Gambari meets Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Istanbul Saturday to discuss his work before proceeding to Burma.

"During his forthcoming visit (to Burma), Mr. Gambari will follow up on his offer to facilitate implementation of the recommendations made to the government during his last mission," said Montas.

The recommendations include immediate steps to address human rights concerns following the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations and a "framework for meaningful and time-bound dialogue between the government and Suu Kyi as a necessary part of an inclusive national reconciliation process."

Other topics of discussion include confidence-building measures, popular participation in discussion on a new constitution and campaign to end poverty.

Gambari will meet a "broad range" of representatives in Burmese society, who he had not been able to talk to when he visited that country in September. He did meet twice with Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition National League for Democracy, who has spent more than 10 years under house arrest for fighting for democracy. (dpa) bkk post

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