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Clinton to Discuss Burma at Asean Meeting

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The Irrawaddy

Clinton to Discuss Burma at Asean Meeting

By LALIT K JHA

Thursday, July 16, 2009

WASHINGTON — Burma will come up as a major issue of discussion when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets her Asean counterparts in Thailand on Friday, according to a state department official.

Scot Marciel, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said that Clinton, during her meetings with Asean foreign ministers, would bring up the issue of Burma.

Scot Marciel, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. (Photo: AFP)

“I don’t want to try to predict exactly what she’s going to say. I’m confident that she will raise Burma and express our concerns quite clearly,” he said.While Clinton will meet with several of her Asean member counterparts, there is no planned meeting with the Burmese foreign minister, said the spokesperson.

“They will probably…they could be in the same meeting when she meets with her Asean foreign minister counterparts. But there’s no bilateral meeting scheduled,” he said.

The 42th Asean Ministerial Meeting, Post Ministerial Conferences (PMC) and 16th Asean Regional Forum will be held in the southern province of Phuket from Friday to Wednesday.

The US policy review on Burma has “slowed down” because of the trial of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, said a state department spokesperson.

“As you know, the policy review has been underway since she announced it in February. It’s been slowed, I guess I would say, because of the new developments, specifically the Burmese arrest and prosecution of Aung San Suu Kyi, and that ongoing trial is certainly factoring into our policy review,” he said.

Briefing reporters on the upcoming trip to Thailand, Marciel said that the basic principles and goals of the US Burma policy remain the same.

“The fact that we haven’t completed this policy review doesn’t mean that we’re without diplomatic tools or fundamental policy. The fundamental policy remains the same, which is to do whatever we can to try to encourage progress in Burma,” he said.

“By progress, I mean the beginning of a dialogue between the government and the opposition and the ethnic minority groups, release of political prisoners and improved governance and, we would hope, more of an opening to the international community,” he said.

“So those fundamental principles, if you will, haven’t changed. The policy review is really looking at what can we do that might help us better achieve those goals, and that’s still very much under review.

“The policy review is sort of trying to figure out the details, or how can we be more effective. But we are not left empty-handed or frozen, if you will, by the fact that the review’s not completed,” Marciel said.

Ten foreign ministers of Asean member countries and dialogue partners such as China, Japan, Republic of Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand and the US have confirmed their participation.

More than 1,200 delegates from 26 countries and related organizations will attend a total of 32 Asean-related meetings during the conference.

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

July 16, 2009 at 4:35 pm

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