Malaysia calls on Burma to free opposition leader as soon as possible


WASHINGTON, July 23, 2003--Malaysia is urging the military government in Burma to free detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi "as soon as possible," Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports. Malaysian foreign minister Syed Hamid Albar also told RFA's Burmese service that ASEAN could still expel Burma "as a last resort" if it fails to move forward.

"We would like to encourage Myanmar to not derail the reconciliation process and to release Aung San Suu Kyi as soon as possible," he said, using the junta's own name for Burma. "We think it would be good for Myanmar to listen to the voice of the ASEAN countries, to show visible signs to undertake the political process as well as the release of Aung San Suu Kyi so that they can avoid pressure from other members of the international community and other actions that may be countries outside ASEAN," Syed Hamid, whose government opposes sanctions against Burma, said in an interview.

"We would like to send a delegation of ASEAN member countries... but so far Myanmar has not responded to that. But they have sent and continue to send special envoys to various ASEAN countries and East Asian countries in order to explain their situation. So the only thing is we would like to see some visible signs and some very clear deeds so we will be able to assist them in their desire to make the political changes that are suitable to their country."

Asked about Malaysia's suggestion that ASEAN could expel Burma from the regional association if it fails to make political progress, he replied: "The Prime Minister [of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad] mentioned this as a last resort. If they ignore everybody, that will be the pressure that people will put... Dr. Mahathir was just giving them a reminder of the consequences that may take place if they ignore the requests and the desire of the international community. We hope they will be able to do something positive that will be of benefit to them."

Earlier Wednesday in Bali, ASEAN nations said they would send a delegation to Burma to press for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi--one day after the European Union warned that her detention could hurt Europe's relations with all of Asia. The announcement was made on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting, or ASEM, which brings together foreign ministers and senior officials from 25 Asian and European countries.

Burmese authorities detained the Nobel Peace Prize winner and hundreds of her followers May 30 following a clash with pro-government supporters that left an unknown number of dissidents dead.

RFA broadcasts news and information to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia. Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo, and Kham), and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content. #####


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