PM should join call for Burma to be dumped from ASEAN chair

New Zealand should back Malaysian moves to block Burma taking over the chair of ASEAN next year.

“When Helen Clark meets the Malaysian Prime Minister this week, she should pledge her support for the Malaysian Government’s stand against Burma,” said Keith Locke, the Green Party’s Foreign Affairs Spokesperson.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi arrives in New Zealand today for a three-day visit.

“The Malaysian Government is rightly concerned that ASEAN’s reputation will suffer if Burma take over the group’s presidency. The Burmese junta is one of the most repressive regimes in the world.

“Government MPs are supporting a motion in the Malaysian Parliament calling for Burma to be passed over as chair of ASEAN. We should join with these Malaysian MPs in calling for the release of the Burmese democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi and moves towards elections.

“New Zealand is a dialogue partner of ASEAN and our voice could help tip the balance against Burma taking over the chair.

“At present, Singapore and the Philippines have joined the Malaysian government members in trying to block Burma, while Thailand and Cambodia say they won’t support such a move.

“Burma has been let off lightly by ASEAN countries in the past. It is commendable that some ASEAN nations are now taking a more active interest in democratic change in that country. We should support them.”