by Violet Cho, The Irrawaddy, 9 Nov 2007

A group of parliamentarians from Southeast Asian countries called on Asean on Friday to suspend Burma’s membership and consider levying sanctions on the Burmese regime.

The politicians, attending a Singapore conference organized by the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC), said the regional organization could lose credibility if it does not take action against Burma’s military regime following its violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in September.

While Asean member countries have condemned the crackdown on demonstrators they have stopped short of imposing sanctions, saying such a move could hamper efforts to achieve reconciliation in Burma.

AIPMC executive secretary Roshan Jason said the group would push for Burma’s suspension from Asean in the hope that the threat would compel the regime to reform.

The group’s decision followed the release of a letter on Thursday from members of Burma’s 88 Generation Students group, describing themselves as “the remaining leaders” of the movement, urging the AIPMC to continue to press for the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners, including those arrested during and after the September demonstrations.

Signed by students activists who are still in hiding—Tun Myint Aung, Nilar Thein, Soe Htun— the letter expressed appreciation that the AIPMC had called on the Asean to urge the Burmese regime to respect the rights of its citizens.

The activists said they believed that Asean leaders could play a key role in persuading the regime to engage in genuine dialogue and resolve the political crisis.

In a statement issued one day after the start of demonstrations on August 19, the AIPMC deplored the regime crackdown on protesters and called for an immediate end to the violence.

The AIPMC was found in November 2004 and is made up of members of parliament from Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand and Burma’s exile government in Thailand.

The organization also has partner groups outside the Asean region, including India, South Korea, Japan and Europe.

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Text of Aung San Suu Kyi’s statement, Associated Press, 8 Nov 2007

Following is the text of the statement by Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, released Thursday by U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari.

“I wish to thank all those who have stood by my side all this time, both inside and outside my country. I am also grateful to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, for his unwavering support for the cause of national reconciliation, democracy and human rights in my country.

“I welcome the appointment on 8 October of Minister Aung Kyi as minister for relations. Our first meeting on 25 October was constructive and I look forward to further regular discussions. I expect that this phase of preliminary consultations will conclude soon so that a meaningful and timebound dialogue with the SPDC leadership can start as early as possible.

“In the interest of the nation, I stand ready to cooperate with the government in order to make this process of dialogue a success and welcome the necessary good offices role of the United Nations to help facilitate our efforts in this regard.

“In full awareness of the essential role of political parties in democratic societies, in deep appreciation of the sacrifices of the members of my party and in my position as General Secretary, I will be guided by the policies and wishes of the National League for Democracy. However, in this time of vital need for democratic solidarity and national unity, it is my duty to give constant and serious considerations to the interests and opinions of as broad a range of political organizations and forces as possible, in particular those of our ethnic nationality races.

“To that end, I am committed to pursue the path of dialogue constructively and invite the government and all relevant parties to join me in this spirit.

“I believe that stability, prosperity and democracy for my country, living at peace with itself and with full respect for human rights, offers the best prospect for my country to fully contribute to the development and stability of the region in close partnership with its neighbors and fellow ASEAN members, and to play a positive role as a respected member of the international community.”