Philippines Presses Burma on Suu Kyi

Philippines Foreign Minister Alberto Romulo

(AP) The Philippines vented its concern to Burma’s top diplomat Wednesday over pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention and exclusion from upcoming elections but got no hint of any change, a Filipino official said.

Such criticisms are unusual among Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which bars members from intervening in each other’s domestic affairs.

Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo said he raised his concerns about the Nobel Peace laureate during a meeting with his Burmese counterpart, Nyan Win, on the sidelines of a Non-Aligned Movement conference in Manila.

“That’s their law according to him,” Romulo said, referring to Nyan Win’s explanation as to why Suu Kyi will be barred from elections later year.

Asked if he was satisfied with Nyan Win’s answers, the glum-looking Romulo replied: “He did not say much. If you asked me and I did not say much, will you be satisfied?”

This year’s elections in Burma will be the first since 1990, when Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory. The junta ignored those results and has kept Suu Kyi jailed or under detention for 14 of the past 20 years. The Philippines has repeatedly called for her release.

An election law announced last week prohibits anyone convicted of a crime from being a member of a political party, making Suu Kyi ineligible to become a candidate in the elections or even a member of the party she co-founded and heads.

Suu Kyi was convicted last August of violating the terms of her house arrest by briefly sheltering an American who swam uninvited to her lakeside residence. She was sentenced to 18 more months of detention.

Nyan Win ignored a bevy of journalists who hounded the Burmese diplomat during the Manila conference. But he told The Associated Press that Burma’s elections chief will announce details about the elections, including the date when it will be held.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who visits Burma next month, told reporters in Manila he will inquire about the elections law and repeat his country’s appeal that Suu Kyi be freed soon and allowed to participate in the polls.

Asean has yet to issue an official reaction to the new elections laws.


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