The Heat On Burma

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[International News]

The U.N. Security Council today heard a briefing on the crisis in Myanmar (Burma) by the special envoy to the region, Ibrahim Gambari, while U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed deep concern over the reported human rights abuses as he called the release of all detainees and a new reconciliation in that nation.

“The use of force against peaceful demonstrators is abhorrent and unacceptable,” Mr. Ban said, adding that comprehensive political dialogue between the Government and the political opposition was indispensable. 

The announcement of a possible meeting between Senior General Than Shwe and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was welcome and should take place as soon as possible.

A window of opportunity had been opened, and the Government must respond positively, he said, underscoring the importance of a united Security Council coordinating with the efforts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the rest of the United Nations system in putting Myanmar on the path to democratization, peace and prosperity.

In his briefing, Ibrahim Gambari, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, said he had emphasized to Myanmar’s highest authorities the changing domestic, regional and international context within which his mission was taking place, and expressed the international community’s deep concern at recent events.  He had called for an end to night raids, arrests and curfews, and for the release of those arrested during the recent demonstrations.

Noting that the Secretary-General’s good offices was a process rather than an event, he stressed the importance of sustained engagement by the United Nations, including through that process, with the active support of neighbouring States and the wider international community. 

Any decrease in tensions could only be sustained if accompanied by positive steps to address the root causes of unrest. Key areas in which tangible progress could be made included the release of all political prisoners, the promotion of an all-inclusive national reconciliation process, full cooperation with humanitarian organizations and the cessation of hostilities in conflict areas.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members agreed that reconciliation and democratization were essential, as was the exercise of restraint. 

Some speakers strongly condemned the Government’s crackdown on protesters and threatened further action if certain conditions were not met.  The United States called for the immediate release of detainees and political prisoners, otherwise it would pursue Security Council sanctions in addition to those it had already imposed against the regime.

Other speakers maintained that too much external pressure would be counterproductive. While supporting Mr. Gambari’s efforts, China’s representative said the situation was already calming down as a result of efforts by all parties inside the country and by the international community. 

Myanmar posed no threat to international or regional peace and security, and additional international pressure might cut off crucial dialogue with the United Nations. Instead, the international community should continue to offer constructive engagement and honest mediation as part of a long-term, gradual process, he said.

Speaking on behalf of ASEAN, the representative of Singapore called for the release of political detainees, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and urged Myanmar’s cooperation with the United Nations, while stressing the complexity of the situation. 

Sanctions should not be ruled out. ASEAN would take a responsible position, as Myanmar was part of the Association’s “family”, but its influence was limited. China and India had a long history of engagement with Myanmar and were uniquely placed to play a role.

The representative of Myanmar, maintaining that Singapore’s statement did not represent ASEAN, said his country had been going through a daunting challenge, but the situation had returned to normalcy.  People all over the country were now holding peaceful rallies within the bounds of the law to welcome the successful conclusion of the National Convention and to demonstrate their aversion to the recent provocative demonstrations.

He said that, in view of the improved peace and stability in the country, curfew hours had been shortened in Yangon and Mandalay and detainees who had not infringed any serious laws had been released. To date, a total of 2095 monks and lay persons had been released, with more releases to follow. Myanmar would continue with its policy of national reconciliation, implementing its seven-step road map to fulfil the aspirations of the people. 

As part of that process, the Head of State had told Mr. Gambari that, should Daw Aung San Suu Kyi renounce her “obstructive and confrontational stance”, he would be ready to meet her personally.  Mr. Gambari had also been invited to visit Myanmar again in November.

Also speaking this morning were representatives of the United Kingdom, Indonesia, France, Belgium, South Africa, Slovakia, Qatar, Italy, Panama, Russian Federation, Peru and Ghana.


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