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Indonesian Lawmakers Oppose Burma's Takeover of ASEAN Chair

Indonesia's parliament has issued a resolution urging the government to boycott meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations if military-ruled Burma is allowed to take over the chairmanship.

Members of Indonesia's parliament are urging the government to support the resolution, which a parliamentary commission passed.

The chairman of the parliamentary commission Hakim, says the resolution was passed after lawmakers met with two Burmese democracy activists who pressed for stronger action against the military government in Rangoon.

The resolution calls for Jakarta to boycott meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations if Burma takes over the rotating chairmanship as scheduled next year.

"We feel that the struggle of the Burmese people to improve the democratic process in Burma should be supported by not only people in Burma, but also by people in Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia," said Mr. Hakim.

Burma's takeover of the chairmanship has become a thorn in ASEAN's side, which has a tradition of non-interference in members' domestic affairs. ASEAN officials say it will be up to Rangoon to decide whether to take the helm next year or to back out.

Because of Rangoon's dismal human-rights record, the United States and the European Union have threatened to boycott ASEAN meetings and stall development aid to the regional group if Burma takes the chair. Most ASEAN nations are anxious to maintain good ties with their major trading partners.

Mr. Hakim says Burma's chairmanship will reflect poorly on other ASEAN countries. "I think we as a parliament member in Indonesia feel similar feeling that the chairmanship of Burma will tarnish the position of Southeast Asian countries," he said. "And ASEAN as an organization and also will create difficulties for the members of ASEAN when it should deal with the international communities such as the European Union and also the United States."

Indonesia, along with most of the international community, has called for Rangoon to release democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained for much of the past 15 years.

Aung San Suu Kyi's political party, the National League for Democracy, won 1990 general elections by a landslide, but was never allowed to take power.

Many Western governments have imposed economic sanctions against the country, urging democratic reform.

Indonesia itself is a new democracy. It endured decades of strongman rule by General Suharto until he was ousted in 1998, and the first nationwide parliamentary and presidential elections were held last year.