16 October, 2007

Myanmar: While Gambari continues talks, junta continues arrests and torture

UN envoy starts a new tour of the region, seeking support against the junta. New reports talk about more arrests and continuing torture. Burmese pro-democracy activists are disappointed with deadlocked diplomacy. EU adopts new, mostly symbolic sanctions.
- AsiaNews

In visit to Thailand UN Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari said that arrests by the military junta over the week-end of student leaders and pro-democracy protesters are “extremely disturbing.” Increasingly, people feel isolated and are desperate as they realise that world diplomacy is essentially at a deadlock.

Last Friday the UN Security Council adopted a resolution strongly deploring the junta’s repression urging it to engage the pro-democracy opposition in a dialogue.

In a statement broadcast on TV and attributed to Colonel Thant Shin, Myanmar’s military government dismissed the UN intervention, insisting on the country’s right to pursue its own slow path to democracy without any set timetable.

“We deeply regret that the UN Security Council has issued a statement contrary to the people's desires,” the junta’s statement said.

China and Russia blocked the attempt for a binding resolution on Burma,” said Han Thar Myint, a spokesman for the National League for Democracy, the country’s main opposition party. But even as the Security Council passed the resolution, the junta was arresting, imprisoning and torturing non-violent protestors, he added.

Soe Tun, a leader of the 88 Generation Students group, said the Security Council resolution doesn't offer the Burmese people any legal protection against state-backed violence and people are increasingly afraid of the junta.

“Dissidents, including monks, are brutally tortured at detention centres and even the International Committee of the Red Cross cannot visit them,” he said. Rumours are circulating that some female detainees, including nuns, have been raped by soldiers at such places.

European Union foreign ministers are for their part discussing harsher sanctions and are expected to ban imports of gemstones, timber and metals from Burma. They will also voice support for the efforts of UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari.

Burma's generals already face an EU travel ban and a freeze on assets.

The new measures will not however prevent the French energy giant Total from developing the country’s gas resources.

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