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US Lawmakers Urge ASEAN to Suspend Burma From Group


The U.S. Senate has voted unanimously on a resolution urging Southeast Asian leaders to suspend Burma from their regional group, following the country's violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations.

The resolution adopted Friday calls on the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, to consider disciplinary measures, including suspension, until Burma's military government demonstrates an "improved respect for and commitment to human rights."

Earlier Friday, Human Rights Watch called on ASEAN to impose an arms embargo and other targeted sanctions on Burma's government. The group also expressed concern that a landmark charter to be signed by ASEAN members next week lacks a clear mechanism to take action against states like Burma.

Officials from ASEAN member nations will begin arriving in Singapore Saturday for their annual summit.

ASEAN leaders are divided on how to approach Burma and the question of how members should deal with what many believe is a rising threat to regional security.

Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia want to maintain the group's traditional approach of constructive engagement. Others, such as Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines, are leaning towards more decisive action.

On Tuesday, ASEAN will mark the 40th year since its establishment by signing a new charter. The new charter will put the group on track for setting up a free trade zone by 2015.

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