Prince at ASEM meeting

His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, yesterday afternoon joined minister and heads of delegation from Asia and Europe including all members of Asean, on the first day of the 9th ASEM Foreign Ministers Meeting, held at the National Convention Centre , Hanoi.

Following preparatory ministerial meetings of the two regional groups, the 9th ASEM Foreign Ministers Meeting was formally opened by Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Meeting in closed session, ASEM members exchanged views on cooperation to address the global financial and economic crisis and also launched the Stockpile Phase of ASEM Initiatives for the Containment of Pandemic Influenza co-sponsored by Asia-Europe Foundation and Japan.

His Royal Hihgness, in the evening, attended a working dinner, during which regional and international developments were discussed, hosted by Pham Gia Khiem, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Meanwhile, Asian and European ministers are to jointly call for the release of Myanmar opposition democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a draft statement seen by AFP on Monday said.

"In light of the concern about the recent development to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, ministers... called for the early release of those under detention and the lifting of restriction placed on political parties," said the draft statement.

It was prepared for the ASEM Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Hanoi which ends today.

ASEM's draft statement called on Myanmar to conduct elections planned for next year "in a free and fair manner" and said the future of Myanmar lay "in the hands of its people".

Myanmar was expected to come up for discussion at the ASEM meeting Monday night during a working dinner, delegates said.

Earlier, asked whether ASEM would make a statement about Myanmar, Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda had told AFP that "one paragraph" in the planned statement was "the result of lots of consultations between Asian (countries), Europeans and with Myanmar as a direct partner".

Also earlier, Surin Pitsuwan, secretary general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, had said there were "some discussions going on" at the Asia-Europe meeting over Myanmar. - Borneo Bulletin (26th May 2009)