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‘No need’ for sanctions

ASEAN has called for all economic sanctions on Myanmar to be lifted and for critics of the member country to back off, Cambodia’s foreign affairs minister said yesterday.

Speaking in Siem Reap after the first meeting of the ASEAN foreign ministers under Cambodia’s chairmanship, Hor Namhong told press that all ASEAN countries had agreed to three requests from the Myanmar foreign minister, Wunna Maung Lwin.

“ASEAN foreign ministers have all agreed to reiterate their call for the lifting of economic sanctions on Myanmar,” Hor Namhong said. “We also agree to Myanmar’s request to reach a compromise to end [the presence] of the good office of the UN Secretary-General on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, taking into account Myanmar’s pledge to continue to work closely with the UN.”

Myanmar held its first elections in 20 years in November 2010, which the UN condemned as “fraudulent”. “We ministers all share the view that it is no longer necessary to convene international conferences on Myanmar outside that country,” the foreign affairs minister said, adding that this was the third of Wunna Maung Lwin’s requests to ASEAN.

“ASEAN [Foreign Ministers] have agreed on all these points, as Myanmar is now walking faster toward a full democratic situation. The reformation of Myanmar toward democracy is going so fast that there is no need for [sanctions, the UN office, or international debate about the situation in Myanmar]”.

In November last year, the 10 ASEAN states endorsed Myanmar’s bid to chair the annual summit in 2014, and in December, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Myanmar in what was the first visit by a US secretary of state in more than 50 years.

Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was released from 21 years of intermittent house arrest in November 2010, also confirmed on Tuesday that she will run for a seat in parliament in the ex-military state’s April by-elections.

Other key issues of concern for the 10 foreign ministers were a resolution on the Korean Peninsula and the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, or DOC, which prohibits the construction of state infrastructure on contested border territory.

The foreign ministers stress the need to ensure the full and effective implementation of the DOC, Hor Namhong said, adding that there was an ASEAN-China senior officials meeting and ASEAN-China working group discussion scheduled for January 13 to 15 in Beijing.

ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan, who also attended the foreign ministers’ meeting yesterday, said the group welcomed the comments of China during the preliminary discussions that were taking place.

“There is momentum, and there is a rather positive and rather effective process of moving forward and an impression of confidence among [ASEAN],” Pitsuwan said of discussions on the South China Sea territorial disputes.

“And vis a vis China on the South China Sea issue … this is important to the world and to the region that we have an effective process going forward to deal with the differences that we have between ourselves.”

Hor Namhong also said that under Cambodia’s chairmanship, ASEAN will call for a meeting between the two foreign ministers on the Korean peninsula to attend a diplomatic meeting in Cambodia in July.

Additional issues discussed at yesterday’s high-level meeting included preliminary talks about regional disaster management in the wake of deadly floods that swept through a majority of the Southeast Asian region last year.

Hor Namhong also announced that China had agreed to ratify the South East Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone treaty and protocol.

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