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ASEAN Foreign Ministers Sign a Pact on Visa-Free Travel Within Region

  • Kyaw Lwin

The ASEAN Framework Agreement on Visa Exemption grouped the bilateral arrangements into a uniform rule, allowing people of the region to visit ASEAN member nations for up to two weeks without a visa. It was signed by the foreign ministers of ASEAN countries gathered here for an annual meeting.

The joint communique of ASEAN Foreign Ministers urged Burma to show "tangible progress" on democracy and called for the release of political prisoners.

However, the vague wording in a joint statement by ASEAN foreign ministers reflected a lack of consensus in the association to come down heavily on Burma, a member of the 10 country group.

The statement fell short of the forceful language used individually by heavyweight countries in ASEAN, including Malaysia, who in recent months have made clear their frustration with Burmese junta.

"We've expressed concerns on the pace of the national reconciliation process andhope to see tangible progress that would lead to peaceful transition to democracy in the near future," said the Malaysian foreign minister Syed Hamid Albar, as he read the statement at the end of the annual meeting.

"We have expressed in our statement the wish that Burma will be able to get back to the road map quickly, and the political detainees there will be released early," said the foreign minister of Singapore, George Yeo.

The current junta in Burma came to power in 1988 and called elections in 1990but refused to honour the results that gave Suu Kyi's party a landslide victory. Since then Suu Kyi has spent most of her time under house arrest.

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

Information for this report is provided by APTN.

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