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Burma's Upcoming Elections Bring Disgrace on ASEAN

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The ASEAN Foreign Ministers are at a meeting from 19 23 July in the Vietnamese capital of Ha Noi for the 43rd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM). The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Meeting is also scheduled to be held there. Discussions on ASEAN community building, the regional architecture and the implementation of the ASEAN Charter are on the agenda of the AMM on 19-20 July. The five-year Work Plan of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) is also expected to be approved.

The foreign ministers will be joined later in the week by officials from the Asia-Pacific, Europe and the United States for the ASEAN Regional Forum. U.S. officials say Secretary of States Hillary Clinton will raise concerns about election preparations in Burma/Myanmar, hoping to highlight that the country's military leaders must be held accountable for the lack of real democratic reform.

The United States is also more and more concerned about potential links between Myanmar and North Korea, including reports by an exiled anti-government group that Myanmar may be harboring nuclear ambitions of its own, U.S. officials said.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Jeremy Browne told the British parliament this month that elections in Myanmar this year could not be viewed as free and fair as long as Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners remained in detention. Browne said the new British government supported London's long-standing policy of applying pressure on Myanmar, also known as Burma, to improve its political and human rights record.

Myanmar's Southeast Asian neighbors have urged the junta to hold "free and fair" elections, expected this year, and to free pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Southeast Asia has been divided over the issue. Early last year some Southeast Asian countries urged ASEAN to take a tougher stand with a public appeal calling on the junta to grant an amnesty to Suu Kyi.

ASEAN's credibility is at stake unless it failed to support freedom of expression and other rights ahead of elections planned in its military-ruled member Burma or Myanmar, Amnesty International said on 18 July.

"Southeast Asian nations should press the Myanmar government to protect the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association throughout the elections period and beyond," the London-based watchdog said in a statement. Amnesty made the comment ahead of annual talks by foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), beginning in Vietnam on 19 July.

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Zin Linn was born on February 9, 1946 in a small town in Mandalay Division. He began writing poems in 1960 and received a B.A (Philosophy) in 1976. He became an activist in the High School Union after the students' massacre on 7th July 1962. (more...)

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