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Burmese Foreign Minister Protests European, Asian Attempt to Isolate Country - 2003-07-25

Burma's Foreign Minister is publicly urging European and Asian leaders to stop isolating his country. Win Aung wrote an editorial for the Singapore Straits Times Friday in the latest salvo in a political offensive over Burma's detention of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung tells readers in Friday's edition of the Singapore Straits Times that it takes "two to tango." He writes it is unfair to place all the blame on Burma's ruling military junta for the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party overwhelmingly won popular elections in 1990, which the junta overruled with military force.

The Nobel peace laureate was detained on May 30, following a clash between her followers and a group of government supporters. The leaders of Burma have repeatedly characterized her detention as "protective custody."

Win Aung's editorial is part of Burma's attempt to defend itself against increasing international pressure to release Aung San Suu Kyi. Burma's official newspaper is publishing a serialized account of her detention, accusing her of deliberately destroying the peace while blaming the government.

Asian nations, which for months have urged Western nations to tone down criticism of Burma, are now toughening their stance. On Thursday, Asian and European government ministers meeting in Bali, Indonesia, issued a joint communiqué calling for Aung San Suu Kyi's immediate release.

Last week, outgoing Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad warned Burma may face expulsion from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, if it did not release her.

Professor Chayachoke Chulasiriwongs, of Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, says expulsion from the regional body is not very likely.

He says Burma's refusal to release Aung San Suu Kyi is less a matter of security and more related to political consolidation by military leader, Than Shwe, and army chief, Maung Aye.

"It depends on the internal, or domestic politics," he said. For now, the United States and the European Union have increased already strict sanctions against Burma.

ASEAN is reportedly sending a mission team to Burma soon.

And Thailand is proposing an international forum to produce a Mideast style "road map" for Aung San Suu Kyi's release and Burma's democratization.