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Obama condemns Burmese junta

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Politico 44

Obama condemns Burmese junta

By POLITICO STAFF | 11/15/09 8:38 AM

President Obama meets with South East Asian leaders in Singapore. AP

Obama condemned the Burma junta and called for the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, at a meeting with other South East Asian leaders in Singapore.

POTUS made no public contact with Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein at the meeting in Singapore’s Shangri-la hotel with the 10 leaders of the Association of South East Asian Nations. It was the first ASEAN meeting to include an American president.

The leaders filed into the ballroom in order at just before 4 pm and took to the stage for the traditional cross hands ASEAN handshake.

POTUS stood in the middle of the line, pool reports. To his left was Thai PM. Abhisit Vejjajiva and to his right was Singapore PM Lee Hsieng Loong.

To Lee’s right was Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in a lime green suit. Next to Arroyo was Myanmar PM Thein Sein in a business suit was three places away from POTUS, who did not shake hands with him or speak to him.

The 11 leaders then moved to a circular table. POTUS was flanked by Arroyo to his right and Singapore to his left. Myanmar four places away.

Secretary Clinton was sitting behind POTUS next to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

Lee welcomed leaders to “the first ASEAN-US leaders meeting.”

Senior officials offered more detail in a briefing following the meeting. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that POTUS “reiterated exactly what he said yesterday in Tokyo about the release of Aung San Suu Kyi by Burma. So he brought that up directly with that government.”

Ben Rhodes, the NSA adviser for strategic communications, added that “in his intervention,” Obama “used exactly the same language that he used in the speech. So privately he said the exact same thing that he said publicly in enumerating the steps that the government of Burma must take: freeing all political prisoners, freeing Aung San Suu Kyi, ending the violence against minority groups, and moving into a dialogue with democratic movements there.”

Obama made a point of mentioning Suu Kyi — who been imprisoned for 14 of the last 20 years by the military regime — by name is his speech in Tokyo.

A joint statement issued by ASEAN after the meeting included a paragraph on Myanmar urging that the elections it intends to hold in 2010 are “conducted in a free, fair, inclusive and transparent manner.” It did not call for the release of political prisoners.

Rhodes pointed out that since Myanmar is a member of the group,that was as far as the statement could reasonably be expected to go, but said that Obama speaking out so directly at the meeting carried much more weight that a staement could have.

http://www.politico.com/politico44/perm/1109/on_burma_24426f78-d646-4c8f-a6b9-855f53d09b84.html

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

November 15, 2009 at 2:57 pm

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