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Last Updated: Monday, 29 November, 2004, 12:48 GMT
Shadows over Asean summit
Thai police arresting Muslim protestors in Takbai
There has been widespread unrest in southern Thailand

Despite the signing of a milestone free trade agreement, violence in southern Thailand and concerns over democracy in Burma have cast a shadow over the Asean summit in Laos, according to regional papers.

Several criticise Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for threatening to walk out, if Malaysia and Indonesia insisted on discussing the deaths of 85 Muslim protesters in southern Thailand last month.

Last week's public outburst by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to abandon the summit if any colleague raises the issue of violence in the South was, unfortunately, rather typical of Asean leaders. Security threats are still widely considered the exclusive responsibility of not just the country where they originate but even of a single security force.

Thailand's Bangkok Post

Such problems as terrorism in Indonesia, violence in southern Thailand and political deadlock in Burma cry out to be addressed by Asean members in a spirit of solidarity, cooperation and consensus-building.

Editorial in Thailand's The Nation

Asean's founding principle of non-interference goes through the burner again this week when its leaders meet amidst strong feelings in the region over what is going on in Myanmar [Burma] and southern Thailand.

Kuala Lumpur's The New Straits Times

Even though the Asean summit has no special agenda to discuss the violence in Pattani, it is difficult to silence Asean leaders about the violation of human rights there. Thaksin ought to make the summit a forum to inform others about the real circumstances of the incident.

Editorial in Indonesia's Jawa Pos

Malaysia's concerns about the death of 85 protesters in Takbai should not be seen as interference in Thai internal affairs. What Malaysia wants to do at the Asean summit in Laos in connection with the issue is to ask Bangkok to clarify what happened.

Malaysia's Utusan Malaysia

Thaksin need not be afraid of clarifying the incidents of bloodshed in southern Thailand... The Thai government must be honest about what happened and should create peace in southern Thailand for the sake of Asean solidarity.

Editorial in Kuala Lumpur's Berita Harian

Certainly, in Asean itself there are still some problems which need to be solved wisely. For example, how must Asean respond to the demand of democratisation when it still faces the fact that the democratic Burmese leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, continues to be detained?

Editorial in Indonesia's Kompas

The debate about whether Australia should sign Asean's Treaty of Amity and Cooperation as a way of speeding the process of freeing up trade in Southeast Asia has been a mere side-show... It would be regrettable if signing the treaty made it harder for us to comment on human rights abuses in Burma, which alarmingly assumes the chair of Asean in 2006.

The Australian

Looking at the series of agreements signed at the summit, Asean's trade and strategic partnership with China has been boosted once more, and was precisely the main axis of this summit. The agreement signed between Asean and China will make this region's entire population of two billion completely eliminate commodity tariff barriers and build the world's biggest free trade area by 2010.

Malaysia's Nanyang Siang Pau

A massive free trade area between Asean and China, which will hopefully be achieved soon, will be another milestone.

Editorial in Malaysia's Kwong Wah Yit Poh

Individual members' exports to and imports from the rest of the world have grown just as fast if not faster, suggesting that the Asean Free Trade Area isn't all that it is cracked up to be.

Editorial in Malaysia's New Sunday Times

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

Asean speeds up free trade move
29 Nov 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Officer charged with Thai deaths
24 Nov 04 |  Asia-Pacific

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