BURMA ASEAN ROLE, SSA CLASH WITH GOVT TROOPS

EU wants Thai help with Burma

The European Union is banking on Thailand, which will chair the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in July, to play a greater role in international efforts to end political problems in Burma. EU special envoy for Burma Piero Fassino told outgoing Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram that the EU considered Asian countries to be key players in the Burma issue as the EU strategy is to promote dialogue between all parties in Burma _ the ruling junta, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of Burma's ethnic minorities.

''We consider Thailand's government to play a very important role, not only because Thailand is the neighbour of Burma but because Thailand plays an important and strategic role in the region. After this July, Thailand will be the chairman of Asean; we consider Asean can play a positive role in Burma ,'' said Mr Fassino.

The EU wanted to cooperate with the Thai government to promote positive solutions in Burma, he added.

The diplomat visited China before coming to Thailand. He will visit Indonesia next month and go to India, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and finally Japan in March to seek common plans to put pressure on Burma to solve its political problems.

Mr Fassino, a former Italian justice minister, also supported United Nations special envoy to Burma Ibrahim Gambari's visit to Burma in November that has produced a positive result, and hoped the UN envoy would revisit the country next month on a mission to bring about national reconciliation in that country.

He hoped Mrs Suu Kyi could be freed as soon as possible, and that the Burmese government could open talks with her soon after she said she was ready for talks conditions.

Mr Fassino urged Asian countries, including Thailand and China, to use economic ties to influence the Burmese military regime to hold talks with its political rivals.

Mr Nitya said Thailand, like other countries, wanted to see democracy and human rights restored in Burma, and supported the UN special envoy visiting Burma again.

Bangkok Post