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Powell to Push ASEAN to Put Pressure on Burma - 2003-06-16


U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is enroute to the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh to join in an international dialogue with the foreign ministers of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Mr. Powell will, among other things, will be trying to generate more pressure in the region on Burmese authorities to release detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

ASEAN ministers have been reluctant to criticize members of the regional grouping. But the meeting in Phnom Penh has already seen a joint appeal for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says Mr. Powell, when he joins meetings there Wednesday, will seek additional focus on the plight of the detained Nobel laureate, and support for efforts of U.N. envoy Razali Ismail for a democratic transition:

"The more that the ASEAN countries are able to make clear that their neighbor and fellow member has been moving in the wrong direction, thwarting the efforts of a Malaysian diplomat working for the United Nations, then I think the better. But I expect the primary focus at this point will be on her release, and the release of others who were detained," he said.

Mr. Boucher dismissed as "kind of ridiculous" the notion advanced by Burmese authorities that Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained for her own protection. He said threats to the democracy leader seem to come from the regime, and no one else.

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