In Meeting with Southeast Asian Nations, President Obama Calls for Myanmar to Free Aung San Suu Kyi

By Jaketapper

Nov 15, 2009 5:44am

Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller report:

SINGAPORE — At a meeting of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this morning, President Obama reaffirmed his call for Myanmar's ruling junta to free democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.

President Obama used the same language at the closed-door meeting that he used in a public address in Tokyo on Saturday, an aide reported, saying of Myanmar, also known as Burma, that "there are clear steps that must be taken – the unconditional release of all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi; an end to conflicts with minority groups; and a genuine dialogue between the government, the democratic opposition and minority groups on a shared vision for the future."

ASEAN's member states are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.

Myanmar's prime minister, General Thein Sein — appointed interim prime minister in 2007 by the ruling military junta — was in the room. It was not clear what his reaction was to that part of President Obama's remarks.

"The President's position is the same one he reiterated in Tokyo," National Security Council spokesman Benjamin Rhodes told reporters. "He delivered that directly and as a part of our approach of taking this message to them directly, enumerating the steps while maintaining the very strong sanctions we have on the Burmese government."

Aung San Suu Kyi, general secretary of the National League for Democracy in Burma, has been under detention for most of the previous 20 years. She was elected Prime Minister in 1990, but the Burmese military junta prevented her from ever taking office and she has been held in detention off and on ever since.

- Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller

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