Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hillary Clinton to address Asean FM meet in Phuket

Thai Foreign Ministry, official Virasakdi Futrakul,chaired a working dinner of ASEAN senior officials,told media that the officials discussed the plan during the meeting. Virasakdi said the plan will get approval from ASEAN foreign ministers who are scheduled to officially begin series of annual meetings on Monday on the southern Thai resort island of Phuket.

ASEAN foreign ministers schedule to begin series of annual meetings on Monday on the southern Thai resort island of Phuket.Indonesian Foreign Ministry Secretary General Imron Cotan said, "We have agreed to propose to our foreign ministers to issue a statement basically portraying that ASEAN countries are united to confront this act of terrorism." According to Virasakdi, the statement will say, "We condemn the act of terrorism that cause loss of innocent lives and urge the authorities to bring the culprits to justice." "We express the solidarity in supporting the Indonesian government and that ASEAN will remain steadfast in countering acts of terrorism in all manifestations," he added.

ASEAN officials were shocked by the tragic explosions which occurred at the tightly secured hotels, according to Virasakdi.Thailand has reinforced security in Phuket, which hosts some 1,000 delegates from the 10 ASEAN countries and 16 other countries for the annual meetings.More than 10,000 forces have been deployed after Thailand enacted an internal security act to quell antigovernment demonstrators.

Prohibitory act orders no demonstrations in the neighborhood of the meeting venue, covering six sub-districts of Thalang and the Kathu district of Phuket.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made no mention of Burma in her foreign policy speech in Washington this week, but she renewed the US offer to talk with the Iranian regime—but the offer and opportunity would not remain indefinitely, she warned.
Clinton is on her way to Asia—this is her second trip—to attend the 42th Asean Ministerial Meeting in Phuket. Whether she wants it or not, the Burma and North Korea issues will likely dominate the meeting. Clinton, who said she was deeply troubled by the decision by the Burmese regime to charge Suu Kyi with a baseless crime, is not unprepared to speak on the Burma issue, but a US policy review on Burma that began in February is still pending.US State Department officials said they expected the showdown over North Korea over its nuclear and missile tests and political repression in Myanmar to be among the leading topics that Clinton will discuss when she arrives.
During her first trip to Jakarta, Clinton said, “Clearly, the path we have taken in imposing sanctions hasn’t influenced the Burmese junta.” Then she added that the policy adopted by neighboring countries of “reaching out and trying to engage them has not influenced them, either.”The policy review on Burma is still pending, with the Obama administration wanting to take a different policy direction on Burma from the previous Bush administration. The new policy will probably be a mix of carrots and sticks, but recent events have complicated apparent indications favoring increased diplomacy and outreach from Washington towards Burma’s rulers.
Suu Kyi’s bizarre trial has played a role in the policy review—other sensitive issues include the release of 2,100 political prisoners, the relationship with ethnic groups along the Burmese border with China and Thailand, and the upcoming election in 2010—then no doubt the issue of Burma’s shady relationship with North Korea will also play a part.

Though Washington’s policy review remains incomplete, the US is not without a policy and diplomatic tools. The Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Scot Marciel, assured that Clinton would bring up the issue of Burma during the meeting with Asean foreign ministers.

“I don't want to try to predict exactly what she's [Clinton] going to say. I'm confident that she will raise Burma and express our concerns quite clearly,” Marciel said.

Secretary Clinton will head the U.S. delegation to ASEAN’s regional forum in Phuket, Thailand, after meeting with Thai officials in Bangkok. U.S. Ambassador for ASEAN Affairs Scot Marciel said that along with regional concerns over North Korea’s nuclear and missile activity, the forum will also provide an opportunity to discuss climate change, pandemic flu, and political repression in Burma.

Marciel said the Obama administration’s review of its Burma policy is ongoing, and has been slowed by the military government’s recent arrests of opposition activists and the trial of National League for Democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. But he said the U.S. policy of promoting progress in Burma remains unchanged.

“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.

In Phuket, Clinton will also hold a four-way meeting with the foreign ministers of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to discuss Mekong River issues such as health and the environment. “This will be the first time that a secretary of state’s done such a meeting,” Marciel said.

Foreign ministers from the other five parties the US, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea will all be in Phuket.

ASEAN's conspicuous member Myanmar since joining the bloc in 1997, showed its defiance earlier this month by refusing to allow UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to visit the opposition icon when he visited.ASEAN foreign ministers are further set to endorse a final version of the bloc's new human rights body, which has faced criticism for being unable to tackle persistent violators such as Myanmar.

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