ASEAN'S dealings with the West may suffer now Burma's repressive regime is to be admitted, diplomats said yesterday. The 10-member group is expected to find Burma's presence in wider international meetings awkward and potentially debilitating, said one diplomat in Bangkok. 'The ASEAN big boys have been determined for some time to bring Burma in . . . but Europe, the United States and Japan are really fed up with SLORC,' he said, referring to Burma's junta, the State Law and Order Restoration Council. Foreign ministers of the seven members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations announced on Saturday that Burma, Cambodia and Laos would be admitted next month. There are now doubts that US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will attend the Asia Regional Forum and other international meetings on the sidelines of next month's ASEAN ministerial meeting. The European Union is exploring new ways of bringing pressure to bear on SLORC - with the encouragement of a new British Government that has promised to inject a fresh morality into its international relations. The British have already warned ASEAN the EU's ban on visits by junta leaders could lead to difficulties when London hosts the second Asia-Europe summit next year. Japan's Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto underlined the West's fears when he said last week: 'We hope membership will not give immunity to the military regime's actions.' The West's doubts appear to have merely goaded ASEAN's pacesetters - Indonesia's President Suharto and Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad - into expressing more support for Burma's junta. A Thai foreign affairs expert, opposition MP Sukumbhand Paribatra, said yesterday: 'Even ASEAN should have a minimum standard of legitimacy - and SLORC has no legitimacy.' He advocated 'constructive intervention' by ASEAN in Cambodia 'to help in its political, economic and social development'. But acting Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim insisted the grouping had adequate experience to deal with the junta, and again backed its policy of non-intervention and 'constructive engagement'. ASEAN's key dialogue partners seek no rupture with an organisation they consider a potential counterweight to China's regional ambitions. Yet one veteran diplomat said: 'The West will not back down on Burma. Relations with ASEAN could now be slower.' 'I think the West will be tougher knowing that the decision [on Burma's membership] was rammed through on a 'to hell with the West' basis.' Japanese commentators meanwhile warned the new members could become an economic as well as a political burden for ASEAN.