Burma's decision to forgo the rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on July 27 was welcomed with relief by fellow members of the 10-nation trade group. The U.S. and European Union, key dialogue partners, had threatened to boycott ASEAN meetings chaired by Burma because of the ruling junta's poor human rights record. The country has kept Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest since she won national elections in 1990. Not everyone is happy with Burma's sidestep. Pro-democracy advocates fear that it will ease pressure on Rangoon from its ASEAN neighbors to move ahead with political reforms. For its part, the government says it is committed to "national reconciliation and democratization."

Edited by Michael S. Serrill

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