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US Has Doubts About ASEAN Endorsement of Burma Democracy Plan - 2003-10-08

The United States has reacted skeptically to the endorsement by the leaders of ASEAN - the Association of Southeast Asian Nations - of the Burmese military government's "road map" to democracy.

The State Department says American officials do not share the view of ASEAN leaders, as stated in their summit communique in Bali, that there have been positive developments in the Burmese political situation.

And it says no "road map" to democracy in Burma (Myanmar) can be meaningful without the full participation of the country's democratic opposition, including Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party.

The U.S. comments followed a positive assessment of the Burmese situation by the ASEAN leaders, who welcomed the military government's recent commitments to democracy, including the seven-stage road map, announced in August, that is to begin with resumption of a constitutional convention suspended in 1996.

At a news briefing here, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said any reconciliation process in Burma should start with the immediate and unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all others in the country detained for the peaceful expression of political views.

"No proposal for a road map is meaningful without the full participation of the democratic opposition," stressed the spokesman."That to us is the way forward. That to us is the only way forward to achieve peace and stability in Burma."

Mr. Boucher said a democratization process must also include the country's ethnic minorities.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her democracy campaign, has been under government detention since last May, but was allowed to return to her home last week after a brief hospitalization.

She remains under house arrest, and Mr. Boucher said there has been no response from the government to a request that U.S. diplomats be allowed to see her.

Officials here say the Burmese issue will be among those on the agenda for President Bush on the Asia trip he begins next week, which includes stops in four ASEAN member countries, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia.