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International Critics Target Burma Ahead of ASEAN Summit - 2003-09-28


Burma's military government has been hit with another round of international criticism, ahead of next week's summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Indonesia is demanding that the country's ruling generals clarify their plans for detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi ahead of the ASEAN summit, October seventh and eighth in Bali. A Malaysian opposition party Saturday urged ASEAN to ban Burma from the summit in Bali unless the democracy icon is freed without conditions.

In Washington Sunday, an influential U.S. lawmaker (Senator Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) warned that Western powers have been overlooking the threat Burma poses to security and stability in Southeast Asia.

The fresh criticism comes two days after Burma moved Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi from isolated detention to house arrest. She underwent major surgery at a Rangoon hospital earlier this month and is being allowed to recuperate at home. She has been in what the Burmese government calls protective custody four four months, since a bloody clash between government supporters and members of her National League for Democracy.

On Sunday, the Jakarta Post quoted Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri as saying Rangoon should state clearly whether it plans to keep Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest or let her go. Indonesia has been trying to persuade Burma to release the Nobel peace laureate, who has spent much of the last 15 years under arrest.

In a commentary published today (Sunday) in The Washington Post (newspaper), Republican Senator Richard Lugar (chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,) writes that Burma's military government has put the country on a dangerous course.

Mr. Lugar says Burma is building a nuclear reactor with help from Russia, and he cites reports that Rangoon is buying missiles from North Korea. He contends that India and China are using Burma as a pawn in their regional rivalry. The senator (from the midwestern state of Indiana) says the United States should make Burma a priority in its relations with Russia, China, India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

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