11/19/2007, 00.00
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ASEAN shows patience with Myanmar where arrests continue

On the eve of ASEAN summit, the US warns that the organisation’s credibility is at stake. With Chinese help, Myanmar’s military regime continues its two-faced policy. A rap singer is arrested for showing off a religious tattoo.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – The reputation and credibility of South-East Asia's main political bloc is at stake because of the Myanmar question. The warning comes from the United States on the eve of the annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) which starts in Singapore tomorrow.

“The reputation and credibility of ASEAN as an organisation has been called into question because of the situation in Burma . . . . It just can't be business as usual,” US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said.

Her comments come after the regional group rejected on Sunday a call by the US Senate to suspend the military-ruled country.

“Myanmar is part of our family,” ASEAN Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong, and as a member of the family the military-ruled country must find a solution through dialogue.

This position helps Myanmar’s two-faced policy, one of openness towards the international community and the other of repression towards its domestic enemies, thanks largely to political and economic support from its main ally, China.

Myanmar’s Foreign Minister Nyan Win announced today that his country would sign ASEAN’s regional charter, which commits its signatories to respect democracy and human rights.

Last week Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Myanmar on a three-day visit during which he got a promise out of strongman General Than Shwe that his government would take positive and pragmatic steps to accelerate the road map towards democratic reforms.

At home however the repression of every form of political opposition continues unchanged, at the expenses of secular activists and Buddhist monks alike.

The online venue of Democratic Voice of Burma reported today the arrest of Burmese rapper G-Tone. He was taken away by police as he left the stage at a concert last night after he showed a religious tattoo to the crowd during his performance. The offending tattoo showed two hands clasped in a prayer position holding prayer beads, something too explicitly religious for the ruling military.

The rapper’s arrest provoked an angry reaction from the crowd. In response, the police went into the crowd and began beating up audience members with truncheons.

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