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Thai and Malaysian PMs Publicly Differ on Burma - 2003-07-21


The prime ministers of Thailand and Malaysia have differed publicly over what actions to take against Burma's ruling military over its crackdown on the country's democratic opposition.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said today (Monday) that Burma's ruling military should be given more time to seek reconciliation. Mr. Thaksin said Burma's generals must be given an opportunity, in his words, to "prove themselves" to the international community.

The Thai leader's comments came a day after Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Burma could face expulsion from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, if democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is not released.

That statement was seen as a signal that members of ASEAN are losing patience with the Rangoon government's hardline stance against the opposition.

The leader of the National League for Democracy has not been seen in public since she was detained by Burma's military authorities at the end of May.

The ruling generals have rejected repeated calls and mounting international pressure for her release.

The issue is expected to top the agenda at this week's Asia Europe Meeting on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

Foreign ministers and other senior officials from 10 Asian nations and 15 European Union countries begin two days of talks Wednesday.

Other topics are expected to include reconstruction efforts in Iraq, the North Korean nuclear standoff, the Middle East peace process, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and international terrorism.

Bali was the site of last October's deadly terrorist attack that claimed more than 200 lives.

Information for this report is provided by AFP and Reuters.

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