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ASEAN Foreign Ministers to Discuss Burma - 2003-06-15


Southeast Asian foreign ministers -- in an unprecedented move -- are to discuss the domestic political situation in Burma, where the military government has detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

A spokesman for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations -- ASEAN -- said the foreign ministers, at a meeting beginning Monday in Phnom Penh, will discuss political developments in Burma.

This is a departure from the regional group's traditional policy of noninterference in the internal affairs of members.

Burma's foreign minister, Win Aung, said in the Cambodian capital today (Sunday) that Aung San Suu Kyi is being held in protective custody to keep her safe from assassins. The foreign minister provided little information about the alleged assassins, but said if Aung San Suu Kyi is harmed, Burma's military government would be blamed.

Mr. Win Aung says Aung San Suu Kyi will be released when the situation in Burma returns to normal, but he did not say when that might be.

Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate and the head of Burma's National League for Democracy, has been detained since May 30th, when her supporters clashed with backers of the military junta. Since then, most other NLD leaders have been placed under house arrest and the party's offices have been closed.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is expected to urge ASEAN to pressure Burma to release Aung San Suu Kyi.

Mr. Win Aung says his government remains committed to national reconciliation. He calls the May 30th violence "very unfortunate."

The government says four people died in the incident in northern Burma, but human-rights groups say the toll was much higher.

Information for this report is provided by afp and ap

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