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ASEAN concern over Suu Kyi

MYANMAR'S Southeast Asian neighbors expressed "grave concern" yesterday over the trial of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

On the second day of the closed trial, five prosecution witnesses testified against Suu Kyi, who is accused of violating her house arrest after an American intruder swam to her lakeside home two weeks ago.

The charges, denied by the Nobel Peace laureate, have drawn international condemnation and calls for Asian governments to get tough with Myanmar's ruling generals.

Setting aside its usual line of non-interference, the Association of South East Asian Nations said the "honor and credibility" of Myanmar was at stake.

It urged "humane treatment" for Suu Kyi and reminded the country that it had ignored the 10-member group's previous calls for her release from detention.

Nevertheless, ASEAN chair Thailand said the group would not change its policy of engagement with Myanmar.

"Events over the last week have raised concern and we expressed our concern very clearly, but our policy is to engage and continue to engage constructively," Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in Bangkok.

The 63-year-old National League for Democracy leader has been detained for more than 13 of the past 19 years.

Her latest house arrest was officially due to end on May 27 after six years.

Critics say the charges, which carry a three to five-year jail term, would silence Suu Kyi during elections next year.

The European Union said on Monday it was considering tougher measures against Myanmar, four days after the United States renewed its sanctions.

The EU also wants Asian governments to exert their influence on Myanmar and planned to raise the issue at an Asia-Europe meeting in Hanoi next week.


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