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Page last updated at 08:55 GMT, Monday, 25 May 2009 09:55 UK

Burma rejects EU, Asian pressure

Aung San Suu Kyi meets Thai, Singapore and Russian diplomats, 20 May
Diplomats were allowed to meet Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday

European ministers have called for the immediate release of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as they meet Asian counterparts at talks in Vietnam.

She is on trial for violating terms of her detention in Rangoon after an American man swam to her house.

European ministers said Burma's neighbours must take a firm stand and use their influence to bring about changes in Burma.

Burma has "strongly rejected" regional condemnation of the trial.

The junta accused Thailand, current chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), of interfering in Burma's internal affairs by releasing Asean's statement.

Asean last week expressed "grave concern" over the treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi, a rare step by the group.

Europe talks

Burma's actions are likely to dominate the Asia-Europe meeting (Asem), a two-day gathering of foreign minister from 45 nations - the EU, the Asean, China, Japan, South Korea, India and Pakistan.

The EU's External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner called on Asian countries to "commit themselves to engage with this government in such a way that there be changes".

Speaking in Bangkok on her way to the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, she said China, India and Asean were "the real neighbours here. They work with the country, and therefore they have the best influence."

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said a message calling for the release of Ms Suu Kyi had been conveyed to Burma's Foreign Minister Nyan Win on the sidelines of the meeting in Vietnam.

British junior foreign minister Bill Rammell urged Asian and European officials to issue a "very strong statement" condemning the trial.

Despite the outrage over the charges, EU foreign ministers last week failed to agree on new sanctions against Burma's military rulers.

Burma rejection

The BBC's Jonathan Head says divisions over Burma have stymied meetings of Asian and European meetings since Asem began in 1996.

Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo: January 2008

China alone might hold some sway over the Burmese government - but until now it has stuck to its position that open criticism is neither justified nor effective, our correspondent adds.

Asean last week warned Burma - who is a member of the organisation - that Ms Suu Kyi's trial puts the country's "honour and credibility" at stake.

Burma's military rulers have dismissed international criticism, especially from Asian neighbours.

"This statement issued by the alternate Asean chairman - which is not in conformity with Asean practice, incorrect in facts, interfering in the internal affairs of Myanmar - is strongly rejected by Myanmar," the New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported said, using its own name for Burma.

"It is sadly noted that the alternate Asean chairman failed to preserve the dignity of Asean, the dignity of Myanmar and the dignity of Thailand," said the statement, which was also carried on state-run television and radio.



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