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Indonesia Urges Burma to Speed Democratization

  • Chad Bouchard

Burma's foreign minister has told Indonesian officials that his country hopes to finish drafting a new constitution by the end of the year. The comments came as the two countries sign new agreements to expand cooperation. Chad Bouchard reports from Jakarta.

The Indonesian government has warned senior officials from Burma that more progress was needed in the country's efforts to establish democracy.

Burma's foreign minister, U Nyan Win on Thursday wrapped up a two-day meeting in Jakarta aimed at strengthening relations.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda told reporters that he's encouraged by Burma's optimism and its pledge to complete a constitution this year.

He says if Burma drafts a constitution by the end of the year, it will be a welcome step forward. Wirayuda says if they are successful, it would advance the process of democratization in the country.

The United States and the European Union have asked Burma's neighbors to pressure the military-ruled country for democratic reforms. Indonesia and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have made it clear they are frustrated with fellow member Burma over its lack of progress.

Jakarta, however, abstained from a U.N. Security Council resolution in January calling for possible sanctions on Burma for human rights violations.

During the visit, the two countries signed agreements that could open the door for Indonesia to help train military and police officers in Burma.

Foreign Minister U Nyan Win refused to answer questions from reporters after the summit, but said he hopes the new agreements will strengthen diplomatic ties.

"We also very much appreciate for the offering of Indonesia to train our officers in various fields," he said.

Officials say Indonesia's transition from decades of strongman rule by former President Suharto to democracy in recent years could provide a model for Burma's political reforms.

Burma's government has touted the establishment of the current convention to draft a new constitution as the first step in a "road map to democracy".

A previous constitutional convention was derailed in 1996. The effort was revived in 2004, though critics say human rights violations and a refusal to release political prisoners hampers the country's progress toward democracy.

Members of the opposition National League for Democracy have not taken part in the current constitutional convention because their senior leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, remain under detention.

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