The Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has warned that Burma must take its turn to lead the ASEAN group next year, or else the effort to restore democracy in the military-ruled state will suffer a major setback.
ASEAN officials are concerned that Rangoon will announce next month, at the group's annual ministerial meeting, that Burma will decline to assume its scheduled chairmanship.
However, Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong says that if Burma takes up its role in ASEAN, the association's member states will have a greater opportunity to press for the early release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese pro-democracy leader who won the country's last election, 15 years ago, but has never been allowed to take office.
Both the United States and the European Union have vowed to boycott ASEAN meetings if Burma becomes chairman.
Information for this report is provided by AFP.