HUA HIN, Thailand: Southeast Asian leaders urged Myanmar’s junta to move towards democracy but detained opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s name was never mentioned, officials said at a summit here Sunday.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) leaders made the call during an “open” discussion with Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein.

“We had an open discussion on Myanmar where the prime minister of Myanmar briefed us on developments,” Abhisit told a news conference at the end of Asean’s annual summit in the Thai beach resort of Hua Hin.

“Asean leaders encouraged him to continue cooperation with the United Nations and to make sure that the roadmap continues according to plan,” added Abhisit, who holds the bloc’s rotating chairmanship.

The ruling junta’s so-called roadmap for democracy calls for elections in 2010 but critics have dismissed the polls as a sham because Aung San Suu Kyi remains in detention.

At a separate news conference, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the leaders discussed the elections with their Myanmar counterpart, but no one brought up the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

“Nobody mentioned the name of Aung San Suu Kyi,” Abdullah said.

An end-of-summit statement issued by Abhisit also did not mention Aung San Suu Kyi’s name, but said that the release of political detainees will “contribute significantly” to the national reconciliation process.

The annual summit was marred on Saturday when Myanmar blocked a rights activist from attending a meeting with the bloc’s leaders.

Myanmar has long been a headache for Asean, which faces persistent criticism that it has failed to use its influence to persuade the military-ruled nation to introduce reform and free political prisoners.

Abhisit said Asean leaders had asked Thein Sein to ensure that the roadmap “would be as inclusive as possible, which of course includes the release of political detainees and participation of political parties in elections.”

Asean is to set up a new human rights body later this year under its new charter but rights groups say that it will be largely powerless to tackle violators such as Myanmar.

Officials revealed early details on the proposed body, which showed that it would have no investigative or punitive powers and would abide by Asean’s controversial policy of non-intervention in domestic matters.

Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962 and has refused to recognize the results of elections in 1990 that Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won by a landslide. – AFP