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ASEAN Takes Up Violence in Thailand, But Not Human Rights in Burma


ASEAN leaders meeting in Laos discussed this year's violence in Thailand's mostly Muslim south, but did not address Burma's human rights record, despite news it is extending the detention of its top pro-democracy leader.

In spite of Thai lobbying efforts at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Vientiane Monday, Indonesia and Malaysia brought up violence in Thailand's mostly Muslim south.

But the issue was handled diplomatically, in that only inquires were made, and general support expressed for a peaceful resolution to the violence, which has left more than 500 people dead since January.

No mention was made of last month's government crackdown that left 87 Muslim protesters dead in Tak Bai.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had threatened to walk out of the summit, if the rule of non-interference in member nations' internal affairs were broken.

Thai government spokesman Jakrapob Penkair says Mr. Thaksin was open to questions, but found some leaders, namely Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, sympathetic.

"He mentioned again today the problem of radicalism is also the problem, which is facing Indonesia," he said. "So Indonesia is very sympathetic - that's the word he used - with the course and the situation in Thailand…."

Western nations have long criticized ASEAN's non-interference policy, when serious issues should be addressed. But ASEAN members say its policy of non-confrontation is more effective and in tune with Asian cultural ways.

Burma's military leaders have avoided any official mention at the summit of their human right violations, or failure to deliver on promised political reform.

This despite news Monday, that pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will stay under house arrest for another year.

One of her party's spokesmen, U Lwin, spoke to VOA from Rangoon.

"The day before yesterday, the police officers arrived at her house … and they meet Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and read out an order, known as section 10B that they have extended one year house arrest to her," he said.

Burma conducted heavy public relations before the summit, releasing more than 9,000 prisoners, including a dozens of democracy activists. Burmese ministers also promised to resume talks on political reform and possible elections early next year, despite replacing its moderate prime minister with one who has more hard-line credentials.