Myanmar's dismal democracy record won't dominate a Southeast Asia summit next week despite strong U.S. pressure to ostracize the country's military junta, host Malaysaia said Thursday. The junta's failure to fulfill pledges to democratize has been an embarrassment to the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which admitted Myanmar in 1997 with Malaysia's lobbying despite heavy opposition from the U.S. and Europe.
Myanmar, which has kept pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest, was a key concern at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Laos last July when the bloc faced a possible boycott from the West unless the junta agreed to forgo ASEAN's 2006 chairmanship.
However, Myanmar backed down, giving the alphabetically rotating chairmanship to next-in-line Philippines and defusing the issue for the coming year. The junta's record has sparked little debate or interest during preparatory meetings in Kuala Lumpur for this year's ASEAN summit starting Monday, followed by a broader East Asia Summit on Wednesday.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar told reporters that the issue was not expected to flare up as in past years. "Let me tell you very clearly that this is not a meeting on Myanmar," Syed Hamid said. "This is about how we can create a cohesive, united ASEAN where we can speak of community building, of integration and having one vision as we face the larger world."
However, Myanmar may be discussed by the leaders informally when they sit down for dinner or during their retreat, Syed Hamid said. "Definitely Myanmar has been a subject that has brought about a lot of interest, a lot of questions. We will leave it to the leaders to decide ... it's a free-flowing discussion," he said, informs the AP. N.U.