NZ could be embarrassed by Burma heading ASEAN

Green MP Keith Locke is worried New Zealand could be embarrassed if Burma takes over the chair of ASEAN next year.

Mr Locke is currently attending the Interparliamentary Union conference in Manila where delegates have taken a strong stand against Burma taking over the chair next year.

“New Zealand is a ‘dialogue partner’ of ASEAN, and next year its ‘dialogue country’ within ASEAN is due to rotate to Burma,” said Mr Locke, Green Foreign Affairs Spokesperson.

“This could be highly embarrassing for New Zealand, in view of the current outcry in South East Asia about Burma taking over the chair of ASEAN next year. Burma has been a big issue at the Interparliamentary Union conference, with Philippine Senate President Franklin Drillon leading a strong campaign to stop Burma taking over the ASEAN presidency.

Exiled Burmese MPs are present at the conference, Mr Locke said, and many delegates have signed a petition demanding ‘the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, in particular Members of Parliament, as well as substantial and measurable political reform as prerequisites for Myanmar’s accession to the chairmanship of ASEAN in 2006’. The three New Zealand delegates signed the petition.

“Burma has an atrocious human rights record, and the New Zealand government should get in behind the efforts, particularly from Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, to stop the military regime heading ASEAN next year,” Mr Locke said.