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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July, 2003, 08:11 GMT 09:11 UK
Asean 'to discuss Burma crisis'
Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi's arrest has sparked outrage
South-East Asian foreign ministers will meet this week to discuss their concerns over Burma's continued detention of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Thailand's foreign minister said on Tuesday.

The talks will be held on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem), which is due to take place on Wednesday and Thursday on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, Surakiart Sathirathai said.

"We are trying to find an exit for the Myanmar (Burma) Government, and also reduce pressure from the international community," Mr Surakiart told reporters.

He said the meeting would allow member countries of Asean (the Association of South-East Asian Nations) to exchange views on the situation.

International pressure is building on Asean to overcome its tradition of non-interference in the affairs of member states, and take tough action against Burma's military junta.

But member countries have appeared divided in recent days, with Thailand rejecting as premature a Malaysian threat to expel Burma from Asean.

The foreign ministers of all Asean member countries - most of which are also Asem members - have been invited to the talks.

Burma itself - which is not an Asem member - has not yet said it will attend.

The UN special envoy to Burma, Razali Ismail, has also been asked to take part in the meeting, according to Mr Surakiart.

Mr Ismail is the only foreign diplomat to have met Aung San Suu Kyi since she was detained on 30 May, along with other leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD), following what her supporters say was an attack on her motorcade by a pro-government mob.

The junta has refused to release Ms Suu Kyi despite criticism from Asean in June, as well as international condemnation and the announcement of sanctions by the United States and the European Union.

Mr Surakiart stressed that the planned Asean meeting was "to help Myanmar find solutions", not to mount further pressure on the country.

"Asean has already clearly stated its demand for Myanmar to quickly release Aung San Suu Kyi," he said.

The member nations of Asean are Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.


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