Burma, Cambodia dominate Southeast Asian talks
July 27, 1997
Web posted at: 2:44 p.m. EDT (1844 GMT)
The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) traditionally has practiced a policy of non-interference in the affairs of its member states. But observers say its recent decision to delay Cambodia's membership because of a
coup in that country may signal a shift in policy.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (CNN) -- Western nations on Sunday criticized the slow pace of democratic reforms in Burma, but failed to halt key international aid for Cambodia to force a
political settlement there.
Addressing a one-day regional security conference in Kuala
Lumpur for major Asian and Western nations, U.S. Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright strongly criticized Burma over its
human rights and democracy record.
Burma's Foreign Minister Ohn Gyaw told the Association of South East Asian Nations Regional Forum that one reason for
delays in preparing a new constitution was the difficulty in
deciding on power-sharing among the country's many
However, Albright described the speech as "objectionable" and
one U.S. official described it as "Orwellian."
Burma is the only member of the newly expanded nine-member
ASEAN which is subject to international sanctions.
Albright said Burma was also the only ASEAN nation "where the
government protects and profits from the drug trade. ... Drug
money is laundered with such impunity ... that it taints
But while her statement was echoed in similar criticism by
the European Union, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, there
were also voices of support.
ASEAN chairman Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Malaysia's foreign
minister, described the Burmese minister's speech as
"factual," even though he admitted "it's also correct that
they are not making big steps forward."
The ASEAN Regional Forum also issued a statement regarding
the situation in Cambodia, where Second Prime Minister Hun
Sen ousted First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh
earlier this month.
Abdullah said the "ministers expressed concern over the
latest developments on the situation in Cambodia."
But the ASEAN Regional Forum -- which includes the nine ASEAN
members and nine major Asian and Western powers plus
observers Cambodia and Papua New Guinea -- said it had also
taken notice of renewed assurances by Cambodia.
Cambodia's foreign minister and newly appointed co-prime
minister, Ung Huot, told the meeting that "Cambodia welcomed
ASEAN's role in helping restore political stability in
That statement on Sunday came several days after Hun Sen
rejected ASEAN mediation proposals, accusing the organization
of interfering in Cambodia's domestic affairs.
Albright discussed the situation in Cambodia in talks with
Japan's foreign minister, Yukihiko Ikeda. A U.S. government
spokesman said Washington and Tokyo did not "take the same
position" on what to do about international aid for Cambodia.
The United States suspended $42 million in aid to Cambodia
for 30 days, a period which ends early next month. That
suspension came amid U.S. calls for Hun Sen to re-establish a
However, Japan, which is Cambodia's largest donor, told
Cambodia Saturday it would continue its aid because of a
promise by Hun Sen to restore political normalcy.
In their summit statement, the ministers of the ASEAN
Regional Forum also:
- Welcomed four-party talks in New York next month on the
situation on the Korean Peninsula and expressed concern over
the impact of food shortages in North Korea on security and
the well-being of its people.
- Welcomed efforts by countries with competing claims to
territories in the South China Sea to seek solutions
- Recommended that the export of nuclear waste be prohibited
to countries that do not have adequate treatment and storage
Reuters contributed to this report.
Related sites:Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
- ASEAN - the official website of Association of the Association of
South East Asian Nations
- ASEAN InfoSite - summary of pertinent information to ASEAN, as well as informative links of interest
- ASEAN - Institute - Institute for the Promotion of Scientific, Economic and Technical Cooperation with ASEAN Countries
- ASEAN Information Superhighway
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