Myanmar opposition welcomes ASEAN moves to bring democracy

The party of detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday welcomed the visit of Malaysia's foreign minister to assess Myanmar's progress toward democratic reforms, a party spokesman said. A summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes Myanmar, has pressed the ruling junta to take concrete steps toward democracy and release Suu Kyi from house arrest.

"We support and welcome the visit of the Malaysian foreign minister to Myanmar. We are grateful for the efforts by Southeast Asian nations to support Myanmar's national reconciliation and democratization process," Han Tha, a spokesman for the National League for Democracy, told The Associated Press.

At a dinner with ASEAN counterparts in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, Myanmar Prime Minister Soe Win agreed to a visit by Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar.

On Monday, Thai Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon said in Kuala Lumpur that it wasn't yet clear if any other ASEAN foreign ministers would also be allowed to visit Myanmar.

Since Myanmar joined the bloc in 1997, with strong support from Malaysia, the international community has criticized ASEAN for defending Myanmar despite its lack of progress toward democracy and improved human rights.

Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace laureate, and her deputy Tin Oo, have been detained since May 2003 when a pro-government mob attacked her, reports the AP. I.L.

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