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Strict control on entry to Myanmar obstructs future regional cooperation

Updated On: Dec 23, 2005

The former Thai Prime Minister, Chuan Leekpai, was scheduled to visit Burmaon Monday (19 Dec) for a private visit but the junta on Sunday asked Chuan to postpone the trip without giving any explanation. Now the Burmese embassy in Bangkokhas responded that they rejected Chuan's request for a tourist visa because "the situation in Burmawas not safe."

Thai Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon was surprised at the junta’s refusal without explanation. "I have learned that (former) Prime Minister Chuan wanted to travel to Burmabut the Burmese government has rejected his entry. I have summoned the Burmese ambassador to clarify the issue."

It is likely that this incident will threaten the bilateral relations that the two countries have tried to forge under incumbent Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra’s foreign policy of close political and business engagement with Burma’s ruling regime.

However, the opposition party, the Democrats, denied news reports that their former party leader was rejected a visa. Democrat leader, Abhisit Vejjajiva, declared the government was making spurious comments as Chuan held a diplomatic passport and visa entry to Burmawas unnecessary. It was said that Chuan had also cancelled his holiday to visit the flood victims in Trang.

Whatever the real reason, the difficulties in visiting Burma may affect the upcoming visit by Malaysian Foreign Minister, Syed Hamid Albar, in Malaysia's capacity as ASEAN chairman to assess Burma’s democratic progress. This visit was procured only after intense pressure by the Association of Southeast East Asian Nations (ASEAN) at its summit in Kuala Lumpur last week. The secretive junta, which has recently moved the capital to Pyinmana, and is also increasing its military strength, has not allowed even UN special envoy, Razali Ismail, to visit earlier this year.

Burmasaid it will explain its plan to bring democracy to the country when Malaysia's foreign minister visits.  

After Myanmar joined ASEAN in 1997 under encouragement from Malaysia, the latter has come under strong international criticism for not taking action against the dire state of human rights and democracy in Burma. ASEAN has since called for democratic reform and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest. Her detention began in May 2003 when pro-government supporters besieged her party as they travelled through northern Burma. In November 2005, her house arrest was extended by a further six months.

ASEAN has insisted that Syed Hamid’s delegation be allowed to meet with Suu Kyi. However, the exact agenda for the scheduled visit is still undisclosed.

Sources:

*Former PM Chuan Leekpai denied entry to Burma(BangkokPost, Dec 20)

*Burmadenies entry for ex-PM Chuan (The Nation, Dec 20)

*Burmaquizzed on report that Chuan denied visa (The Nation, Dec 20)

*Myanmarjunta to explain its democratization to ASEAN envoy (www.inq7.net, Dec 20)

*Burmasays country unsafe for Chuan visit (BangkokPost, Dec 21)

*Democrats: Chuan not denied visa (BangkokPost, Dec 21)