Indonesian FM to Hear Burmese Citizens on ASEAN Chairmanship

Posted September 20th, 2011 at 5:50 am (UTC-5)
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Indonesia's foreign minister says he is eager to hear the views of Burmese citizens — including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi — on whether their country should serve as chairman of ASEAN in 2014.

Marty Natalegawa discussed plans for an October visit to Burma in an interview Tuesday with the Associated Press. He said Burma's new leaders are anxious to chair the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and that may encourage them to speed the pace of reform.

Natalegawa, whose country is the current chair of ASEAN, said he also wants to share with Burmese leaders his own country's experiences in transforming from an authoritarian country to a democracy.

Several human rights organizations have urged ASEAN to block Burma from taking the chair of the regional group because of its human rights practices.

The new government, which came to office at the end of March, has opened a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and taken limited steps to ease its strict media censorship. However it continues to hold more than 2,000 political prisoners.

Natalegawa said he believes the prospect of chairing ASEAN has the potential to speed up the process of democratization in Burma.