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Philippines Foreign Secretary: No Precondition Set for Upcoming Burma Visit

  • Thein Oo

Q: First I would like to know about your trip to Burma, when you are going to visit there? Have you already set the date?

A: I am going to Myanmar, I have accepted [the] invitation of [the] Myanmar government. We are choosing the date which is mutually convenient to Myanmar and the Philippines.

Q: The Philippines is upcoming chairman of ASEAN. So are you paying a visit to Burma as a representative of ASEAN or just as a foreign minister of the Philippines?

A: I am paying a visit just as a foreign minister of the Philippines. Because they invited me when I was not yet chairman. And it was a bilateral arrangement. So we will continue it as such. So it is just that we will not [be] able to mix, you know, before I became chairman. Now I am chairman, but I still go there as the foreign minister of the Philippines.

Q: Do you have any plan to convey any message to Burma, on behalf of ASEAN, to move forward democratization there?

A: Well, the message was already discussed in the just concluded thirty-nine foreign ministers meeting in Kuala Lumpur. We just concluded today. So that message was already delivered. In fact, there is a joint statement, issued by the former chairman. He issued it when he was chairman on July 27 or 26.

Q: You expressed that you want to see detained Noble Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi during your visit to Rangoon in Burma. Later you said you will not insist to see her if the Burmese government doesn't allow you. Do you intend to change your plan?

A: Well, we have no precondition; they invited me to go to Myanmar and I accepted it. That's it. We didn't set any condition.

Q: In these days, some ASEAN member countries express frustration about the political situation in Burma, and they even call for UN intervention so that Burma will move forward with political reforms. What is the Philippine government's position?

A: Our position is very clear from the very beginning, which is the road map to democracy. We have stated so many times, all you have to do is look at your files, that [is] the same position we have consistently adopted.

Q: Some legislators from ASEAN countries are calling to expel Burma from the regional body. What is your opinion or comment on that?

A: Well, we have rules in the ASEAN, the former chairman stated that we need a consensus to arrive [at] any decision. So it's not a decision of any one person or any one member.

Q: Now, ASEAN countries openly and frankly criticize Burma to move forward with democratization. So it means that ASEAN has turned into a new way of engagement instead of a traditional non-interference policy. Do you think it could affect ASEAN unity or integration?

A: Well, there is unity in ASEAN, that's why we have a consensus and we agree what we do. We do not do individually. We act as a party with consensus. We discuss the issues and we come to decision and we have a consensus. When we don't have a consensus, then obviously that is not something that we will act upon.

Q: When you were a Senator, you visited Burma and met Aung San Suu Kyi personally. I remember that you talked about, at that time, the struggle of Burma for independence, the history of Burma. I understand that you're aware of the Burma situation very well. What is your impression on Aung San Suu Kyi?

A: We met her, I think, that was about ten or eleven years ago. We had lunch with her at the residence of our ambassador, and I have very good impression on her.

Q: Now you are the chairman of ASEAN, how will you help Burma with changes or to carry out democratic reforms?

A: That is the mandate. That is a consensus of ASEAN that we will continue to engage with Myanmar. We urge that road map for democracy be implemented. [The] road map for democracy, of course, as [well as] several components.

Q: Will you coordinate with UN because some countries are calling to discuss Burma issue before the UN Security Council?

A: Well, United Nations' representative Ibrahim Gambari was there about a month ago. Of course, we will listen to him [about] what is happening in Myanmar. So we will certainly listen to him.

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