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PRESS CONFERENCE BY ASEAN INTER-PARLIAMENTARIAN CAUCUS ON DEMOCRACY IN BURMA

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

4 October 2006

The situation in Myanmar must become a priority for the United Nations Security Council before conditions in the South-East Asian country deteriorated further, members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Inter-Parliamentarian Caucus on Democracy in Burma told correspondents at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

“The military regime in Burma is a threat to the region and the world,” Senator John Ungphakorn of Thailand said, explaining that the panellists utilized the former name for Myanmar because they felt the latter name had been imposed on the country by the regime, against the will of the people.

Mr. Ungphakorn was joined at the press conference, sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic, by fellow parliamentarians Loretta Ann Rosales of the Philippines and Djoko Susilo of Indonesia, all of whom had come to Headquarters to maintain pressure on Security Council members for action towards the democratization of Myanmar, which, they said, had finally been put on the agenda of the 15-member body last year.

The threat to regional security posed by the country was amply illustrated, panellists said, by the 700,000 refugees who had already fled the regime and who could become a destabilizing factor. In the area of rights abuse, they said that there were possibly 70,000 child soldiers enlisted by the Government, though the real numbers could not be known, because authorities had not allowed monitoring.

In addition, they said that economic conditions had grown steadily worse, so that Myanmar had slipped badly to become one of the region’s least developed countries.

For those reasons, panellists said, member countries of ASEAN had gradually come to regret their admission of Myanmar, and had started to put pressure on the regime to reform.

One current focus of the parliamentarians was to put the issue of Myanmar prominently onto the agenda of the ASEAN summit in December, they said, along with trying to influence powerful nations of Asia, such as China, India, Japan and South Korea, to desist from supporting the regime through commercial arrangements and the exploitation of resources.

“A lot of lobbying must be done before the December ASEAN meeting,” Ms. Rosales said. “It’s not going to be easy, but we’ll just have to do it.”

In response to correspondents’ questions, the panellists said that it was indeed regrettable that South Korean corporations had made arrangements with the Myanmar regime, but that, if South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon became Secretary-General of the United Nations, they assumed that he would look at the problem under a different light.

Asked about a decline in opium trafficking from Myanmar –- an issue that had greatly concerned the Security Council -- panellists replied that opium was not the only illicit drug being exported from the country; across the border from Thailand, there were factories also producing amphetamines.

Finally, in response to questions about arms sales to Myanmar through China, India and Ukraine, the panellists stressed it was indeed crucial to stop the flow of weapons into the country.

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For information media • not an official record



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