Myanmar’s intransigence

Updated On: Oct 16, 2007

After extensive bargaining among its members, notably the United States and China, the United Nations Security Council issued a statement condemning the Myanmar military junta for its violent suppression of the protests and urging it to begin talks with Aung San Suu Kyi.

To step up the pressure and visibility, the United Nations special envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari is travelling around the region to find ways to resolve the Myanmar issue. He arrived in Thailand on Sunday (14 October) for a two day visit and is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont and Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsong-gram to exchange ideas on the situation in Burma. The Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont had earlier conceded the limits of what the current Thai government can do, explaining, “We can say a lot more if a government is not a product of a coup d'etat.”  However, Surayud did make a concrete proposal for a UN-backed multiparty talks on Myanmar (similar to the six-party talks on the Korean nuclear issue) to resolve the Myanmar crisis.

After Thailand, Gambari will then travel to MalaysiaIndonesiaIndiaChina and Japan to find support for a political solution in Burma.

Thus far, Gambari has not succeeded in creating a dialogue between the government and opposition. The Myanmar's government said General Than Shwe is willing to meet with Suu Kyi “personally” only if she gives up her confrontational attitude and renounces support for sanctions against the military regime.

Furthermore, in response to the UN Security Council statement, the Myanmar official media described the council’s statement as “regrettable” and said it was “totally disregarding the fact that the situation inMyanmar does not represent a threat to the regional and international peace and security.” It insisted, “There will emerge a peaceful modern and developed democratic nation - according to the state's seven-step road map.” It also added that citizens “who are shouting at full-blast” for U.N. intervention were traitors “trying to hand over their motherland to alien countries.”  The Myanmar’s state media on Monday (15 October) also lashed out at western nations accusing them of trying to install a puppet government.  

Meanwhile as Gambari sought to harness regional support to push the generals to adopt democratic reforms, Myanmar appeared indifferent, and has continued its arrest and crackdown of pro-democracy activists.  Among the activists recently detained was one of Myanmar's most famous dissidents, Htay Kywe. Others arrested were Aung Htoo and Thin Thin Aye, also known as Mie Mie. A fourth activist, Ko Ko, was also arrested.

While continuing its arrests there are also signs that the junta feels that there is no longer a serious threat to its rule. It organized pro-government rallies, and has restored internet access which was cut off on 28 September, two days after troops opened fire on peaceful protesters and images of the crackdown were sent to the outside world. The junta also relaxed a nighttime curfew, shortening it by four hours. A retired official said, “The authorities seem to think that they have arrested all leading activists they want to.”

The Myanmar government seems to be feeling confident that it will be able to ride out the current storm over its recent brutal crackdown on demonstrations. Unfortunately, it seems to be right. (15 October 2007)


Gambari starts Asian tour with 2-day visit to Thailand (The Nation, 15 October 2007)

UN envoy to Myanmar arrives back in Asia, as junta continues crackdown (Associated Press, 14 October 2007)

Myanmar restores Internet, but arrests continue (Reuters, 14 October 2007)

PM Restricted on Burma (Bangkok Post, 14 October 2007)

UPDATE: Myanmar Govt Decries UN Efforts To Resolve Crisis (Dow Jones, 14 October 2007)

Burma hits at UN for meddling in its affairs (Financial Times, 13 October 2007)

Ibrahim Gambari visit (Bangkok Post, 13 October 2007)

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