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Where the world stands on Burma

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BBC World News

Where the world stands on Burma

As governments around the world consider how to respond to the protests in Burma, the BBC News website looks at the aims and influence of key Western and Asian players.


Relationship: The Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) has in the past appeared reluctant to condemn a fellow member but member-states appear increasingly uneasy. Asean foreign ministers meeting in New York urged the Burmese authorities to halt violence against the demonstrators.

Interests: Concern to preserve the unity of the regional bloc needs to be balanced against the desire for regional stability, and pressure from Western countries that wish to secure Asean support for action against the military regime in Rangoon.

Comment: "We hope that the Myanmar [burmese] authorities and all other parties in Myanmar will appreciate the broader implications of their actions on the region as a whole and act accordingly." Singapore foreign ministry, current Asean chair


Relationship: A close trading and diplomatic relationship it is seen as the country with the strongest potential to influence events in Burma. It has blocked UN sanctions against Burma but recently called for "restraint" by "all" parties.

Interests: Burma's oil and gas reserves are important for a rapidly developing and energy-hungry China but, as a regional power, Beijing also has an interest in ensuring that events in Burma do not lead to regional instability.

Comment: "China hopes that all parties in Myanmar exercise restraint and properly handle the current issue so as to ensure the situation there does not escalate and get complicated, and does not influence the stability of Myanmar and the peace and stability of the region." Chinese foreign ministry


Relationship: While conscious of its lack of leverage over Burma, it is urging India, China and Asean to take a tougher line. Some sanctions are already in place. In 1996 the EU banned arms sales and expelled military attaches, and it froze the assets of individuals within the junta. It withdrew preferential trade status from Burma and subsequently cut off all non-humanitarian aid to the country. European Parliamentary deputies have called on the EU to work with the US and Asean to prepare measures against the Burmese government, including targeted sanctions.

Interests: Relatively few economic interests in Burma but France remains a major investor, with a joint gas project between the US firm Chevron and French Total.

Comment: "China is the puppet-master of Burma. The Olympics is the only real lever we have to make China act. The civilised world must seriously consider shunning China by using the Beijing Olympics to send the clear message that such abuses of human rights are not acceptable." Edward McMillan-Scott, vice-president of the European Parliament


Relationship: It has close economic and diplomatic ties with Burma. It has expressed concern over the current crisis but generally maintains a careful silence over the situation, describing it as an internal affair of Burma. Former Defence Minister George Fernandez has described India's current position as "disgusting".

Interests: India is concerned above all with protecting its oil interests in Burma, signing a new deep-water exploration deal in the same week that protests got under way. India also sells arms to the military regime in Rangoon. But as the world's most populous democracy, India is under pressure from the West and from activists at home to take a stronger stand in support of democratic forces in Burma.

Comment: "As a close and friendly neighbour, India hopes to see a peaceful, stable and prosperous Myanmar, where all sections of the people will be included in a broad-based process of national reconciliation and political reform." Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee


Relationship: While Russia is much less important than China as an ally and trading partner to Burma, Moscow has stood beside Beijing in opposing any attempts to bring foreign pressure to bear on the Burmese government.

Interests: Earlier this year Burma and Russia signed a deal that could lead to the construction of a Russian nuclear research reactor in Burma. Last year, Moscow offered fighter jets and air defence systems to Rangoon in exchange for access to Burmese oil. Russian commentators have suggested that a change of government in Rangoon would bring in an administration more susceptible to Western influence than the incumbents.

Comment: "We consider any attempts to use the latest developments to exercise outside pressure or interference in the domestic affairs of this sovereign state to be counterproductive. We still believe that the processes under way in Burma do not threaten international and regional peace and security." Russian foreign ministry


Relationship: The UK's status as the former colonial power does not give it any particular influence as economic links have declined and London - in common with other Western governments - has been vocal in its condemnation of the military government.

Interests: The UK once had major interests in petroleum in Burma but no longer has any large-scale investment in the country. British companies continue to do business in Burma, with hardwoods being an important import. Campaigners have complained that UK government policy on trade with Burma is vague and not enforced.

Comment: "I want to see all the pressures of the world put on this regime now - sanctions, the pressure of the UN, pressure from China and all the countries in the region, India, pressure from the whole of the world." UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown


Relationship: Washington has called for political change in Burma and expressed support for the recent protests. In 1997 the US banned new investment in Burma, and in 2003 it banned most Burmese imports and dollar transactions. It has announced it will impose further sanctions against 14 senior officials in Burma's government, including the country's acting prime minister and defence minister. But in common with the other Western countries, the US realises its influence is weak when compared to that of China, India and Asean.

Interests: As a result of sanctions few economic interests remain, a major exception being the US share in the Chevron-Total gas project.

Comment: "The world is watching the people of Burma take to the streets to demand their freedom and the American people stand in solidarity with these brave individuals." US President George W Bush

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how cud bhoot mata comment on burma? Whenever its own hypocratic record is discussed the bhoot says its an internal matter. Why on earth would the bhoot then castigate another country for doing what it has done do its own citizens for decades ie kill and torture them.


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Just goes to show that in reality, all countries, communities, knighthoods (present and historic takes), justice identifying faiths etc.... are all asleep.

They only wake up when their own home is threatened, not when that of their neighbour is threatened.

The whole event is tragic, and world response is pathetic and sickening, and NO country is exempt.

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Soldiers Hunt Dissidents in Myanmar. Date: 10/03/2007

News Source: http://www.commondreams.org

YANGON, Myanmar - Soldiers announced that they were hunting pro-democracy protesters in Myanmar's largest city Wednesday and the top U.S. diplomat in the country said military police were pulling people out of their homes during the night.

Military vehicles patrolled the streets before dawn with loudspeakers blaring that: "We have photographs. We are going to make arrests!"

Shari Villarosa, the acting U.S. ambassador in Myanmar, said in a telephone interview that people in Yangon were terrified.

"From what we understand, military police ... are traveling around the city in the middle of the night, going into homes and picking up people," she said.

Residents living near the Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar's most revered shrine and a flashpoint of unrest, reported that police swept through several dozen homes in the middle of the night, dragging away several men for questioning. The homes were located above shops at a marketplace that caters to the nearby pagoda, selling monks robes and begging bowls.

Meanwhile, the junta pursued other means of intimidation. An employee from the Ministry of Transport, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that he was told to sign a statement saying he and his family would not take part in any political activity and would not listen to foreign radio reports. Many in Myanmar use short-wave radios to pick up foreign English-language stations - a main source for news about their tightly controlled country.

The U.N.'s special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, declined to comment on his four-day mission to Myanmar, where the military junta last month crushed mass pro-democracy demonstrations led by the nation's revered Buddhist monks.

Villarosa said embassy staff had gone to some monasteries in recent days and found them completely empty. Others were barricaded by the military and declared off-limits to outsiders.

"There is a significantly reduced number of monks on the streets. Where are the monks? What has happened to them?" she said. The Democratic Voice of Burma, a dissident radio station based in Norway, said authorities have released 90 of 400 monks detained in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin state, during a midnight raid on monasteries on Sept. 25.

A semblance of normality returned to Yangon after daybreak, with some shops opening and light traffic on roads.

However, "people are terrified, and the underlying forces of discontent have not been addressed," Villarosa said. "People have been unhappy for a long time ... Since the events of last week, there's now the unhappiness combined with anger, and fear."

Some people remained hopeful that democracy would come.

"I don't believe the protests have been totally crushed," said Kin, a 29-year-old language teacher in Yangon, whose father and brother had joined a 1988 pro-democracy movement that ended in a crackdown in which at least 3,000 people were killed.

"There is hope, but we fear to hope," she said. "We still dream of rearing our children in a country where everybody would have equal chances at opportunities."

The military has ruled Myanmar since 1962, and the current junta came to power after snuffing out the 1988 pro-democracy movement. The generals called elections in 1990 but refused to give up power when Suu Kyi's party won.

The military crushed the protests on Sept. 26 and 27 with live ammunition, tear gas and beatings. Hundreds of monks and civilians were carted off to detention camps. The government says 10 people were killed in the violence. But dissident groups put the death toll at up to 200 and say 6,000 people were detained.

Among those killed was Japanese television cameraman Kenji Nagai of the APF news agency. His body was flown from Myanmar to Tokyo on Wednesday.

Gambari went to Myanmar on Saturday to convey the international community's outrage at the junta's actions. He also hoped to persuade the junta to take the people's aspirations seriously.

He met junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe and his deputies and talked to detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi twice.

Gambari avoided the media in Singapore, where he arrived Tuesday night en route to New York. He was not expected to issue any statement before briefing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday.

The junta has not commented on Gambari's visit and the United Nations has only released photos of Gambari and a somber, haggard-looking Suu Kyi - who has spent nearly 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest - shaking hands during their meeting in a state guest house in Yangon.

In Singapore, Gambari met with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations bloc of which Myanmar is a member.

A Singapore government statement said Lee told Gambari that ASEAN "is fully behind his mission" to bring about "a political solution for national reconciliation and a peaceful transition to democracy."

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