US-Asean Drop Call to free Suu Kyi? – The Irrawaddy


SINGAPORE –– An advance copy of the post-summit statement by the US and Southeast Asian countries fails to call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners in Burma, despite President Barack Obama making a personal plea for the release of the pro-democracy icon in Tokyo on Saturday.

The US sought the inclusion of wording calling on the junta to “help create the conditions for credible elections, including by releasing political prisoners and initiating a dialogue with political parties and ethnic minority groups,” but the line was not included in the final joint draft, according to The Associated Press, which obtained a copy of the statement to be issued by the US-Association of Southeast Asia Nations (Asean) Summit.

The final draft statement called on the military government to initiate “a dialogue with all stakeholders to ensure that the process is fully inclusive,” according to the AP.

The statement will say that “the general election to be held in Myanmar [Burma] in 2010 must be conducted in a free, fair, inclusive and transparent manner in order to be credible to the international community.”

The US has said it will not lift economic sanctions on the Burmese junta unless Suu Kyi and other political prisoners are released in advance of the elections.

US State Department media officials in Singapore contacted by The Irrawaddy would not comment on the draft statement, saying they had not yet seen a copy.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy, Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said, “We do not know what is in the final statement. It has not been released yet.”

Surin hinted that a one-on-one discussion between President Obama and junta Prime Minister Thein Sein was possible during the summit, which got underway on Sunday afternoon.

Previewing the summit, Surin said “Anything can happen.”

“There are 11 leaders of 11 sovereign states in the room, and they are free to talk amongst themselves.”

Earlier, US officials said that a one-on-one meeting between Obama and Thein Sein was highly unlikely. Obama has scheduled a bilateral meeting with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono directly following the US-Asean Summit.

Asked if Asean would be offended if the US took a hard line on Myanmar during the summit, Surin said, “This depends on the US.”

Surin said the summit agenda includes climate change, energy, trade, terrorism and economic recovery as issues to be discussed.

He said a follow-up summit is planned for 2010, probably in the US.

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