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Thailand Urges Burma, International Community to Work Toward Reconciliation

Thailand is calling on Burma's military government and the international community to agree on a plan for reconciliation and democracy in Burma, as an alternative to economic sanctions. However, the signs from Burma for reconciliation between the military government and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi are not promising.

Thailand has been resisting international calls for stronger sanctions against its next door neighbor, Burma. Instead, Thailand's foreign minister is calling on all parties, including Burma and the United States, to sit down and establish a workable framework for reconciliation.

Thailand fears sanctions imposed on Burma by the United States and the European Union, combined with reduced aid from countries such as Japan, will trigger a flood of economic refugees into Thailand.

A proposal by Thai Foreign Minister Suriakiart Sathirathai calls instead for talks that include Burma's government, the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), and representatives from Southeast Asian and Western countries.

Mr. Suriakiart says the parties must agree on a framework - he uses the term "road map" - that could realistically lead to reconciliation between the government and the NLD. The Foreign Ministry spokesman, Sihasak Phuangketkeow, says the Burmese generals have to give the international community some specific idea of the steps they would be willing to consider.

"[Dr Suriakiart] is also calling on the Myanmar [Burma] government to also think in terms of a road map so that the Western countries can have some kind of benchmark to consider the position of the Myanmar government in terms of moving things forward," he said.

Last week, the U.S. Congress approved legislation that would impose tougher economic sanctions on Burma, including a ban on imports, mostly from the textile industry, as well as a freeze on Burmese financial assets in U.S. banks. President Bush has said he would sign such a bill into law.

The recent pressure follows the government's refusal to release Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy leader, who was detained May 30, after she and her supporters were attacked by government supporters in Northern Burma.

On Saturday, the government in Rangoon showed it was not yet ready to compromise in the case of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ceremonies were held Saturday to mark Martyrs Day, the remembrance of Burma's independence hero, General Aung San, who was murdered in 1947. He was Aung San Suu Kyi's father.

In the past, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has been allowed to attend the annual event, and there was some thought that she might be released Saturday, at least temporarily, in order to attend.

However, the ceremonies near Rangoon's famous Shwedagon Temple were held without her. Her brother, Aung San Oo, with whom she is not on good terms, represented the family.