Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Security Council Members Hold Informal Discussions on Burma

The Irrawaddy News

WASHINGTON — Members of the UN Security Council have informally begun discussions on the possibility of issuing a statement on the current situation in Burma, especially the ongoing trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, following an initiative by the United States, France and Britain.

Members of the Security Council and UN secretary-general have been under pressure during the past one week following a global outcry against the detention and trial of Aung San Suu Kyi by the Burmese military government.

The Burmese community and its pro-democracy leaders have sought intervention from the Security Council, along with 72 former prime ministers and presidents, more than 40 global celebrities and 11 Nobel laureates in statements and letters urging the Security Council to take up the matter on an urgent basis.

However, because of resistance by China and Russia—two veto-wielding members—the 15-member UN body is not expected to be able to make much headway. Informed sources at UN headquarters in New York said the other three permanent members of the Council —the US, Britain and France—have made a fresh move on the need to issue either a press statement or a presidential statement by the Security Council.

The Security Council could have a formal meeting on Burma, if an agreement is reached among its 15 members. China is opposed to such a move, saying it would be considered as interference in the internal affairs of a country. Russia and Japan too are believed to have adopted a cautious approach in this regard.

On the other hand, the US, Britain and France argue that the current situation in Burma and the ongoing trial of Aung San Suu Kyi deserves the immediate attention of the Security Council. In a Presidential Statement issued in October 2007, the Security Council called for the release of all political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi.

Meanwhile, two Noble laureates—the Dalai Lama and Jose Ramos Horta—joined nine other recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize in writing to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the issue. “We urge you to discuss this matter with the members of the United Nations Security Council and to do so as expeditiously as possible,” the Noble laureates said in a letter dated May 18.

In a related development, the US State Department said that a consular officer from the US Embassy in Rangoon has been permitted to observe the joint legal proceedings against Aung San Suu Kyi and an American national, John W. Yettaw, who was arrested for allegedly staying overnight at the house of the Burmese leader.

The State Department said that its Burma policy continues to be under review. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated during her trip to Asia in February, neither sanctions nor engagement alone have succeeded in bringing about change in Burma, the State Department said in a written response to a question from reporters.

“The goal of our policy is to encourage progress toward democracy and the protection of human rights. We are reviewing all elements of our policy to assure that we are pursuing the most effective means of achieving that goal,” the State Department said.

In another statement, Rep Joe Crowley urged the Burmese military regime to release Aung San Suu Kyi and abandon their campaign of intimidation against her.

“I am also concerned about her current state of health, and the military junta should allow her doctor to examine and provide her with the necessary medical treatment. This is another example of the Burmese dictatorship's attempt to stay in power at all cost— including at the expense of the people of Burma," Crowley said.

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