ASEAN Mulls Suu Kyi Amnesty Call

JAKARTA ~ Senior Asian officials met in Indonesia on Thursday to discuss issuing an unprecedented call for amnesty for Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry said.

The officials from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes Myanmar, were considering a “joint appeal” for Suu Kyi’s release from house arrest, ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said.

The appeal could be in the form of a letter to the Myanmar junta, which recently extended the Nobel Peace laureate’s confinement for 18 months after a trial widely seen as a sham.

“From what I remember, this would be the first such joint appeal for amnesty,” Faizasyah said.

“We don’t know what form it will take. It could be in the form of letter to Myanmar, but they will have to discuss this.”

Any such appeal would signal a toughening of the bloc’s attitude toward the junta and would be a significant departure from ASEAN’s much-criticised principle of non-interference in members’ internal affairs, analysts said.

“To my knowledge, this is a first for ASEAN. The effort is unusual and a step forward,” Singapore Institute of International Affairs chairman Simon Tay said.

“They will not expel Myanmar or sanction it – not yet – but they will not sit impassively if the regime continues to act in this manner… If followed up, and the regime does respond, it can signal a diplomatic opening.”

Thailand said last Friday it was pushing for a consensus among member states to ask Myanmar’s military rulers to pardon Suu Kyi. Faizasyah said the initiative also had the full support of the Indonesian government.

Suu Kyi led her National League for Democracy to a landslide victory in elections in 1990, but the junta has refused to recognise the result and has kept her locked away in her lakeside home for 14 of the subsequent years.

As well as Myanmar, ASEAN also groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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