Indonesian president to visit Myanmar

Indonesia's president will discuss Myanmar's democracy efforts with junta leader Gen. Than Shwe during a visit to the military-ruled nation next week, a presidential spokesman said Thursday.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will arrive in Myanmar on March 1 for a two-day visit, said Dino Pati Djalal.

The trip will be the first by a regional leader since December, when the Association of Southeast Asian Nations publicly called on Myanmar to release political prisoners and speed up moves toward democracy.

In January, U.N. special envoy to Myanmar Razali Ismail quit his job because the country had not let him visit since March 2004, and a planned trip by Malaysia's foreign minister last month also was canceled.

Yudhoyono intends to meet Than Shwe to "discuss Myanmar's efforts on its road map to democracy," which is supposed to lead to free elections, said Djalal.

The United States and European countries complain that ASEAN has done little to force democracy in Myanmar, whose junta keeps pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest and has jailed hundreds of dissidents.

An Indonesian lawmaker urged Yudhoyono to cancel the visit "as a concrete gesture of support for pro-democracy groups in Myanmar."

"If Indonesia doesn't pressure the military regime (by canceling the trip) ... it is the same as giving support," said Yuddi Chrisnandi, a parliamentarian on the security commission, reports the AP.


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