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Burma no-show, Thai Constitution could delay Asean Charter

Singapore - The planned signing of an Asean Charter by Southeast Asian leaders during their summit here next month could be delayed if Burmese leader does not attend or if Thailand is prevented from signing by constitutional demands back home, Asean chief Ong Keng Yong said.



Ong stressed, however, that he was only considering the worst-case scenario and said the 10-member Asean is still hopeful the charter can be finalized during the annual summit set for Nov. 18 to 22.

''Myanmar (Burma) is supposed to come, but we do not know what kind of temperamental outburst can happen before now and the summit,'' said Ong, secretary general of the Jakarta-based Asean Secretariat.

''Thailand will be here but if you read their new constitution, there is a restriction on what the Thai government can sign. Under the new Thai constitution it is a requirement that before the

government signs anything, prior approval has to be obtained from parliament.''

Ong said a draft Asean Charter has already been readied by Asean senior officials for the leaders to sign next month.

''The charter is already done and all the difficult arguments about the paragraphs and provisions have already been settled. So it's no longer an issue with regards to the charter.''

''We don't want to delay, we must sign it in this round because if we delay...I am afraid that the momentum may be lost and the charter might not be done.''

As for Burma, which has come under international condemnation for its brutal treatment of democracy protestors, Ong said Asean expects the military junta's leader Than Shwe to attend the summit.

''I believe that the leadership in Asean are quite determined that Myanmar will be in the summit and sit at the table as part of Asean membership.''

Meanwhile, Tommy Koh, Singapore's representative in the high-level task force that drafted the Asean charter, said the charter will include agreements to establish an Asean human rights body and to ensure ASEAN members comply with agreements signed among members.

''In the past our record for honoring our agreements and commitment has been dismal with only 30 percent of agreements implemented. Under the charter, the Secretary General will be given the task of monitoring compliance, and non compliance will be reported to Asean leaders,'' Koh said.

In addition, a system of compulsory dispute settlement will be included in the charter, he said.

In terms of economic cooperation, at the request of Asean economic ministers, the charter is expected to state that not all decisions need to be taken by consensus and the principle of

''10-minus-X'' will be enshrined, which means that projects can go ahead even when some member countries hold back.

Asean groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.//Kyodo News


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