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Mandela: SA's greatest son laid to rest (slideshow)
The world watched as Nelson Mandela was finally laid to rest in his hometown of Qunu following a dignified and moving funeral ceremony on Sunday.
PRESIDENT Nelson Mandela continued his South-East Asian tour on Thursday by receiving an honorary doctorate from Thailand's Chulalongkorn University, where students sang "Happy Birthday" to him ahead of his 79th birthday on Friday.
Mandela, who arrived in Thailand on Wednesday after a four-day state visit to Indonesia, continued his softly-softly diplomatic approach by refusing to be critical of the military junta in Burma and recent events in Cambodia, saying instead that SA will follow the lead of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Brunei) in its regional foreign policy.
"We are going to be guided by regional organisations like ASEAN," he told reporters after addressing the joint foreign chambers of commerce in Bangkok. Developing policies in the region independently of the ASEAN could contribute to instability, he said. "That is why we are developing relations between ASEAN and the South African Development Community," Mandela added.
Mandela was criticised at home earlier this week for agreeing to sell arms to Indonesia while avoiding putting pressure on the Indonesian government over its human rights record or its 20-year illegal occupation of East Timor. Mandela has avoided sticking his neck out in foreign policy since no countries followed his appeal for sanctions against the dictatorship in Nigeria after eight dissidents, including writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, were hanged in 1995.
Speaking about fellow Nobel peace laureate Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Mandela said: "She is a very eminent person, very courageous. Her position is a matter of concern in almost every part of the world." Suu Kyi has in the past expressed admiration for Mandela, saying she read his biographies while under house arrest.
But Mandela declined to make any statement about Suu Kyi's continued house arrest, saying instead that SA supports United Nations resolutions on Burma. The UN has called for the military to step down and honor the 1990 elections, which Suu Kyi's supporters overwhelmingly won. He added: "We are guided here by ASEAN and any decision which is taken by ASEAN we will consider very carefully."
ASEAN will admit Burma as a full member next week, giving the regime a diplomatic shield and probably increased investment. ASEAN has declared policies of non-interference in Burma's affairs, and of "constructive engagement" -- the theory of changing the regime by doing business with it. The United States, meanwhile, has forbidden new investment by US companies in Burma, and the European Union has revoked the ruling military junta's trading privileges.
Mandela leaves Thailand to return home on Thursday.