Thursday, November 20, 2008

Burma appears to have suddenly dropped off the UN Security Council’s radar.

The Irrawaddy News

What has surprised many a Burma watcher is the silence of members of the Security Council at a time when the Burmese military junta has been indulging in one of the worst ever crackdowns on pro-democracy activists in the country.

More intriguing is the relative silence of three of the permanent members of the UNSC—the US, Britain and France—who have, until now, kept Burma at the forefront of the UN’s agenda.

The three nations, for their part, strongly condemned the harsh sentences passed down on pro-democracy supporters in Burma recently.

In a statement earlier this week, the White House said that the UNSC "must not remain silent" as the regime demonstrates yet again its contempt for universal freedoms and its disdain for the international community's calls to release all political prisoners.

The president of the Security Council for the month of November, Jorge Urbina of Costa Rica, told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday that Burma is not yet on its program for the remaining part of this month and that none of the 15 members had brought the matter to his attention.

"I have not heard any delegation asking for a briefing on [the Burma] issue, but as you know, in the Council very often new initiatives come almost every day," Urbina said.

An Asian diplomat told The Irrawaddy that none of the 15 members, including the US, Britain and France, had officially or unofficially tried to raise the issue inside the Security Council.

Meanwhile US President George W. Bush plans to bring up the Burma issue with his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, when the two leaders meet on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) Summit in Lima this weekend.

Briefing reporters on the APEC summit, Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs Dan Price listed Burma as a major issue of discussion with Hu Jintao when the two leaders meet on Friday afternoon. Other issues will include Iran, Zimbabwe and Sudan. The issue of Tibet would also be taken up, he said.

"As the president has always done in all of his meetings with Chinese leaders, the president will discuss issues of human rights and religious freedom, including the ongoing dialogue between Beijing and the Dalai Lama," Price said.

Bush, who has led the Western world in imposing sanctions on the authoritarian military regime of Burma, believes that China can play an important role in the restoration of democracy in Burma and protection of human rights.

Two days ago, the White House in a statement condemned the arbitrary sentencing of pro-democracy political prisoners of from two to 65 years in prison. The statement cited a complete lack of due process by the courts in handing down the sentences.

Earlier this month, Bush nominated Michael Jonathan Green as the White House representative and policy coordinator for Burma, to fill a new post created by Congress.

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