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Myanmar, Cambodian Civil Society Representatives Stay Out Of Asean Talks

HUA HIN (Thailand), Feb 28 (Bernama) -- Two civil society representatives -- Myanmar's Khin Ohmar and Cambodian Pen Somony -- withdrew from meeting 10 Asean leaders here today after their governments threatened to boycott the event.

Altsean-Burma (Alternative Asean Network) coordinator Debbie Stothard said Ohmar and Somony had volunteered to stay out to ensure the meeting between the leaders and other civil society representatives takes place with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and General Thein Sein of Myanmar staying inside.

"Cambodia wants to nominate its own representative while Myanmar don't want Ohmar who is activist in fighting for democracy in the country. What Cambodia and Myanmar did are against the Asean Charter and in a way sabotaging its vision," she said.

She said the host of the 14th Asean Summit, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya had come out of the meeting room to meet Ohmar and Somony.

Meanwhile, a protest planned by anti-government supporters linked to ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra outside the venue of the summit was aborted at the last minute when news broke out that pro-government groups were heading there to confront them.

"We came here to show to the rest of Asean this government is not a legitimate one. But we have to leave as the yellow shirts (pro-government) are coming and we don't want to take the risk as we have only 40 people here," a spokesman of the red shirt group said.

When opening the summit attended also by Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the Thai prime minister said the grouping needs to make Asean more people-centred.

"Protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms is a key feature of our community.

"The establishment of an Asean human rights body by this year, the first ever of its kind in the region, will be a big step in this direction," said Abhisit, the most junior leader among the 10.

He said with the Asean Charter that makes the grouping a rules-based one, people would demand their share, their ownership and their role in the Asean process.

"How we intend to manage this new reality is of crucial importance to all of us," he said.

Additional Information

Country: Thailand
Website: http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsindex.php?
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Source: D.Arul Rajoo
When: 02/3/2009

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