S'pore backs Burma in Asean-EU
Straits Times. Dec 15,1997
BY Brendan Pereira in Kuala Lumpur
SINGAPORE supports fully Burma's participation in the Asean-EU dialogue.
Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said this during a bilateral meeting with Burmese leader Senior General Than Shwe, on the sidelines of the Second Informal Asean Summit here.
Noting the postponement of the Asean-European Union Joint Cooperation Council meeting last month, he said that Singapore was of the view that the EU position of excluding Burma was wrong, as the latter was a member of Asean.
Mr Goh noted that the dialogue was conducted on a bloc-to-bloc basis, unlike the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem), where countries took part as individual members.
The EU has criticised strongly Burma's human-rights record and the military regime's treatment of political opposition. It has said that it will not deal with Burma in its dealings with Asean.
This stance resulted in the postponement of the Asean-EU JCC meeting which was scheduled to be held in Bangkok on Nov 17.
The Thai host said that the reason for the postponement was that the two groupings could not agree on Burma's participation at the meeting.
The EU, which has suspended all high-level contacts with Burma in protest against its military government for suppression of human rights and opposition politicians, had objected to the observer status the country would receive at the meeting.
Britain, which will be hosting the Asem summit in April next year, has said it will not invite Burma to the gathering.
Asem now links Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, China and South Korea with the 15-member EU. The first meeting last year was in Thailand.
During the 30-minute meeting, which was described as warm and friendly, the regional currency crisis and its effects on countries in the region was discussed.
Mr Goh last met Gen Than Shwe last month when the latter was in transit in Singapore, on his way to Jakarta. The meeting yesterday was opportunity to renew personal ties and review developments in the region.
Views were also exchanged on ways of furthering economic cooperation between both countries.
Meanwhile, AFP reports: Malaysia yesterday backed down from its previous insistence that Burma be allowed to attend the Asem summit.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi told a news conference that Asem was "not a region-to-region kind of meeting".
"There is therefore no automatic membership especially for Burma," he was quoted as saying.
But for meetings between Asean and the EU, "our stand is very clear", he said. "For this matter, all Asean members are involved."
Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad sparked a furore in September when he said Asean might boycott next year's summit if Burma was barred.
Dr Mahathir said that any discrimination against the country would amount to discrimination against Asean.