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Burma Boasts At UN Of Big Northern Friends

Burma Boasts At UN Of Big Northern Friends


by Richard S. Ehrlich

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Dragged by the U.S. into the United Nations Security Council for critical examination, Burma responded on Tuesday (September 19) by boasting that China, Russia and other "friendly nations" will protect Burma's military regime from stronger UN intervention.

The U.S. on Friday (September 15) arranged for Burma, also known as Myanmar, to be placed on the UN Security Council's agenda for discussion, amid hopes the move would pressure the biggest country in mainland Southeast Asia to become a democracy.

In unprecedented international action against Burma, the UN Security Council agreed with Washington, voting 10-4 to schedule the impoverished, repressive country for discussion.

China and Russia, along with Qatar and the Congo, voted against the move, indicating Beijing and Moscow would use their permanent membership in the UN's Security Council to prevent Burma's case moving forward to a more serious "resolution" vote, which could have resulted in direct UN intervention.

The United States, Britain, France, Japan, Denmark, Greece, Slovakia, Argentina, Peru and Ghana voted to discuss Burma. Tanzania abstained.

U.S. President George W. Bush hopes UN criticism of Burma will help force a regime change, and free more than 1,000 political prisoners, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who is under house arrest.

"This a major step forward for President Bush's effort to bring to the attention of the international community the situation inside Burma," which is a "threat to international peace and security," U.S. Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, said.

Though Washington was unable to bring Burma to a resolution vote, its placement for discussion by the Security Council is a blow to the unelected military junta.

"Putting Myanmar on the [UN] agenda means allowing the [UN Security] Council just to discuss the matter, and it is not meant for allowing it to take action against the country," said a defensive, 4,400-word "Stance of Government" statement, published in Burma's official New Light of Myanmar newspaper on Tuesday (September 19).

Referring to China and Russia, it said "Myanmar's friendly nations among the permanent members" will "oppose the efforts" of the United States to call for a resolution vote.

The military, which has ruled Burma since 1962, said Washington used money, and political muscle, to score votes from countries not on the Security Council.

"In the procedural voting at the UN Security Council, the USA pressured alternate member countries politically and economically, and persuaded them with international aid.

"Even Japan -- which has been traditionally friendly to Myanmar, and had declared that it would not accept the attempts of the USA to put Myanmar on the agenda -- has changed its stance under the pressure of the USA. It is regrettable," the regime's statement said.

"Alternate member countries, which hold the correct view that Myanmar's affairs are just internal affairs posing no threat to international peace and security, changed their stance under the pressure of the USA," it said.

"No one is detained for political reasons in Myanmar," the regime insisted, denying extensive reports by the U.S. State Department, New York-based Human Rights Watch, London-based Amnesty International and other monitors.

Mrs. Suu Kyi, the world's most famous political prisoner, has spent 11 of the past 16 years under house arrest in the capital, Rangoon, and will not be freed until the military considers her pacified and obedient.

"She has constantly been demanding confrontation, defiance of all orders, utter devastation, resorting to sanctions, and reliance on external elements, all of which will lead to harming the national unity, national stability, and national development, as well as hindering the democratization process.

"Thus, she was restricted at home under section 10 (B) of the 'Law Safe-Guarding the State From the Danger of Destructive Elements'," it said.

Despite being occasionally freed and then locked up again, Mrs. Suu Kyi has never been put on trial and no date has been set for her next release.

The military fears her immense popularity could cause another attempted "people's power" insurrection, similar to the one in 1988 which was crushed by the regime, which killed at least 1,000 pro-democracy protestors.

In 1990, while she was detained, Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won a nationwide parliamentary election, but the military ignored their victory and refused to relinquish control.

Norway's Nobel Committee awarded Mrs. Suu Kyi its 1991 Peace Prize. The European Parliament gave her the 1991 Sakharov prize for human rights.

Mrs. Suu Kyi, however, is a "traitor" who helps Burmese "terrorists" and others who are secretly supported by Washington, which wants to install a "puppet government," and "station military bases in the territory of Myanmar," the regime's statement said.

"Myanmar, which shares borders with two giant countries, becomes crucial in its [U.S.] strategy for Asia," it said, noting Burma's commercially-friendly borders with China and India, in addition to sharing lucrative frontiers with Bangladesh, Laos and Thailand.

*************

Copyright by Richard S. Ehrlich, who has reported news from Asia for the past 28 years, and is co-author of the non-fiction book of investigative journalism, "HELLO MY BIG BIG HONEY!" Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews. His web page is http://www.geocities.com/asia_correspondent

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