Accessibility links

Breaking News

Powell Calls on ASEAN to Secure Democracy in Burma

Secretary of State Colin Powell, in Bangkok for preparatory meetings for Monday's APEC summit of Pacific-rim nations, is calling on Southeast Asian countries to secure democracy in Burma and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Bush administration has made no secret of its disappointment about the handling of the Burma issue by ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which in its summit in Indonesia earlier this month cited "positive developments" in the Burmese political situation including the issuance of a so-called democracy "road map" by the military leadership.

In an in-flight news conference enroute to Bangkok, Mr. Powell accused the military authorities in Rangoon of "trying to divert attention" with the road map, which calls for elections and a new constitution but omits any time-frame or mention of Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy Party.

The Secretary said there was more that ASEAN could have, and should have, done for Burmese democracy and said in his plenary and bilateral meetings at APEC he will press other governments, particularly Burma's neighbors, to exert more pressure on the authorities in Rangoon.

"We will make it clear to them that we feel strongly that the international community should demand unequivocally the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, and to let her enter back into the civic life of the Burmese people," said Mr. Powell. "We believe that Burma should move quickly to put their people on a path to democracy, and that includes the release of Aung San Suu Kyi."

Aung San Suu Kyi's party scored a landslide victory in national elections in 1990, but was not allowed to take power. She has been held in various forms of detention much of the time since then and has been under house arrest since undergoing surgery last month.

Mr. Powell said the Nobel Peace laureate's treatment by authorities since winning the mandate to lead the country 13 years ago has been a "travesty."

The Secretary of State said he would also urge APEC members to move beyond their traditional agenda of economics and trade to deal with terrorism and other transnational threats including the problem of anti-aircraft missiles in unauthorized hands.

He acknowledged that some major APEC members including China are reluctant to expand the scope of the organization, but he said investment and tourism can only flourish in countries where the security of businessmen and visitors can be assured.

Mr. Powell said President Bush would discuss the North Korean nuclear program in bilateral meetings at the APEC summit, including a session with Chinese President Hu Jintao, whose government hosted six-way talks on the issue including North Korea in Beijing in late August.

He said the administration remains committed to a diplomatic solution of the issue through the multi- discussions, which diplomats expect will resume before the end of the year.