Myanmar: Time for Urgent Action – New Crisis Group media release

Myanmar: Time for Urgent Action
New York/Brussels, 25 September 2007: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should hold urgent talks with the foreign ministers of China, India and Singapore, the current ASEAN chair, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly and lead a joint attempt to encourage peaceful dialogue in Myanmar/Burma. China, India, and ASEAN should back Ban Ki-moon’s call on the authorities in Myanmar to exercise restraint in the face of growing peaceful protests and put their full weight behind UN efforts to find a solution to the country’s political crisis.
“The regime has a long history of violent reactions to peaceful demonstrations,” said Gareth Evans, President of the International Crisis Group. “If serious loss of life is to be averted, those UN members with influence over the government are going to have to come together fast.”
Only China, India, and, to a lesser degree, ASEAN have any influence on the military regime. China has very close economic and political links with Myanmar, while India has developed strong military ties. Both would suffer from worsening instability there, as they did after the violent August 1988 military crackdown. In the past, the military junta has fired on peaceful protestors or used vigilante groups to attack them. Demonstrations in recent days have reached a country-wide scale where such action could cause massive loss of life.
The Secretary-General has been using his good offices to deal with the political stalemate in Myanmar. His Special Envoy for Myanmar, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, has been trying to negotiate the release of opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and to encourage dialogue between the military and the National League for Democracy. These efforts have made little progress as the military authorities have moved forward with a constitutional drafting process that will cement them in power despite evident public opposition to their rule.
China, India and ASEAN should communicate to the military that a repeat of the 1998 violence would be unacceptable and would lead to serious consequences, including action by the UN Security Council. China and Russia should warn Myanmar that they would support full consideration of the situation there by the Security Council, as well as a possible adoption of a Security Council Resolution, if the military use force against protestors.
The Security Council should re-affirm its support of the Secretary-General’s good offices mission and urge Myanmar’s leaders to work with the Special Envoy to map out measurable steps towards economic and political reform.  Those countries with close ties to Myanmar should urge the military to release all political prisoners, including Daw Aung Sang Suu Kyi; take steps to alleviate economic hardship and introduce serious reforms; and start a real dialogue with the opposition.
Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) 32 (0) 2 541 1635
Giulia Previti (Washington) 1 202 785 1601
To contact Crisis Group media please click here
The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation covering some 60 crisis-affected countries and territories across four continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.

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