/** reg.easttimor: 478.0 **/
** Topic: Indonesia/ASEAN on sanctions **
** Written 6:56 AM Apr 25, 1997 by fbp in cdp:reg.easttimor **
Bangkok - Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Wednesday shrugged off newly imposed economic sanctions on Burma by the United States saying the move would not impede Rangoon's bid to enter their regional grouping.
U.S. President Bill Clinton Tuesday approved a ban on new investments by Americans in Burma to further penalize Rangoon's military junta for "a state of large-scale repression".
"This will have no impact on Burma's bid to become a member of ASEAN," said Thai Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who plans to visit Rangoon to boost Thai-Burmese relations on May 3-4.
Leaders of seven-members of ASEAN agreed at an informal summit last year to admit Burma, Cambodia and Laos into the Southeast Asian association simulateously, although no specific entry date was set.
It is widely understood that the three countries will join ASEAN some time this year when the grouping, which now includes Brunei, Indonesia, Malysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, celebrates its 30th anniversary.
"We are going to work very hard to get Burma in ASEAN," Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told the Bernama national news agency.
Malaysia will host ASEAN's annual ministerial meeting in July this year and later plans an informal summit in December. Both occasions would provide opportunities to admit Burma, Cambodia and Laos to the fold thus encorporating all ten Southeast Asian nations in the association on its 30th anniversary.
Mahathir refrained from commenting on whether the U.S. investment ban in Burma would adversely affect ASEAN-U.S. relations.
"I can't predict what ASEAN is going to say. We will talk to the ASEAN countries," he said.
The region is no stranger to the U.S. foreign policy tactic of slapping eocnomic sanctions on countries that don't live up to Washington's requirements.
President Clinton finally lifted a two-decade old embargo on U.S. trade and investment in Vietnam on February 3, 1994.
The U.S. placed economic sanctions on Vietnam in 1975 under the so- called "Trading With the Enemy Act." Vietnam was classified an enemy immediately after the Saigon fell to communist troops in April, 1975, and remained one for 19 years largely on account of Hanoi's failure to satisfactorily account for thousands of American servicemen listed as misssing in action (MIA) in the Vietnam war.
Hanoi had reacted tersely Wednesday to the U.S.A.'s investment ban in Burma.
"As we have made clear many times, Vietnam shares the common point of view with many other countries that using economic sanctions to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries is counter to the principle of mutual benefit and equality in international relations and is not suitable with the current trend in international relations."
Other ASEAN countries besides Vietnam have reason to be wary of the U.S.A.'s penchant for using economic sanctions to penalize governments for failing to live up to U.S. standards on human rights protection.
Although Jakarta remained mum Wednesday over the U.S. sanctions on Burma one newspaper saw it an a warning Indonesia should heed.
"For Indonesia, it must watch closely the growing pressure within the U.S. to impose similar sanctions against Jakarta in view of the barrage of criticism of its policy in East Timor," said the Jakarta Post newspaper in an editorial Wednesday.
The newspaper noted that U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy has proposed legislation to cut off U.S. aid to Indonesia in response to reports of widespread human rights abuses in East Timor.
"The heat is certainly on us, especially after last week's vote at the U.N. Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva critcizing Indonesia's human rights record in East Timor," said the Post.