U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has criticized Burma's
military government for being out of step with its southeast Asian
neighbors on rule of law, human rights, and democracy. VOA's Luis
Ramirez reports from Singapore Rice spoke to ministers attending a
Southeast Asia security forum.
The meeting brought together
ministers from 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations, ASEAN, who talked about issues including a brewing border
conflict between Thailand and Cambodia and disaster preparedness in the
wake of Cyclone Nargis in Burma.
But it was the matter of
politics that overshadowed discussions on the impoverished,
military-ruled country, which is a member of ASEAN. The group is
usually reluctant to criticize Burma's generals, but ASEAN chair
George Yeo, Singapore's foreign minister, said ministers at the meeting
had raised concerns about the generals' continued house arrest of
opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
"On her detention, we
expressed our deep disappointment and asked for her early release, of
Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners," he said.
of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking on the sidelines of the forum, said
Burma is out of step with its fellow ASEAN members who aspire to the
rule of law, human rights, and the development of pluralistic political
Rice also expressed concerns about developments in
Malaysia, another ASEAN member, where authorities have put an
opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, under investigation for sodomy.
Anwar was at the forefront of a major election upset that dealt
Malaysia's long-ruling coalition the biggest loss of its history last
March. The top U.S. diplomat urged Malaysia to ensure a transparent
investigation, one that adheres to the rule of law.
the ASEAN ministers' agenda was a brewing conflict along the border of
Thailand and Cambodia. The two countries have been preparing for
possible attacks stemming from a dispute over access to an ancient
temple that sits on the border.
ASEAN chairman George Yeo said some ministers opposed Cambodia's decision to take the matter to the U.N. Security Council.
should not have to go to the U.N. Security council," he said. "It was
not a problem just a few weeks ago. It has suddenly become a problem.
Why has it become a problem?"
Yeo called Cambodia's action premature and said the dispute should be handled within the region.
large at the security meeting was the North Korean nuclear issue.
Secretary Rice held a rare meeting Wednesday with her North Korean
counterpart as part of a gathering of six-party nuclear negotiations
that also include China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea, on the
sidelines of the forum.
Thursday, the U.S. official said it is
now up to North Korea move the process along by accepting verification
of its nuclear activities. Rice said the declaration the North made
last month on plutonium production and other activities has left
questions that need to be answered. A spokesman for the North Korean
delegation said all issues, including verification, can be resolved if
the U.S. delivers on its promises, in keeping with the principle of
action for action.
North Korea has agreed to dismantle its
nuclear program in exchange for food and fuel aid. Washington has also
promised to remove Pyongyang from its list of state sponsors of