The UN Security Council has issued a tough statement condemning the crackdown on peaceful protests in Myanmar.
After hours of haggling and China’s attempts to soften the statement, the 15 member Security Council issued a unanimous statement on Thursday (11 October) that “strongly deplores the use of violence against peaceful demonstrations in Myanmar”. This came in the midst of reports from various sources that a top democracy activist had died after being tortured during interrogation.
The statement also called on Myanmar to “create necessary conditions for a genuine dialogue” and urged the release of all political prisoners.
The opposition in Myanmar has been cautious about the offer of dialogue by the military junta. While welcoming the possibility of dialogue and the appointment of deputy labour minister Aung Kyi as the “liaison officer” to build relations with the detained opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition has also made it clear that the dialogue must take place without any preconditions. Earlier on, Senior General Than Shwe had indicated that the government is willing to enter dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi if she dropped her confrontational attitude and calls for international sanctions.
And in the midst of this crisis, there are other added problems coming out of Myanmar. The director of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa reported that Myanmaris now the world’s second largest heroin exporter after Afghanistan and the illicit trade could grow even faster if the government’s control over far-flung provinces weakens.
Besides drug money controlled largely by criminal groups operating in the Shan and Kachin provinces, the gems trade has been a source of income for the military junta in Myanmar. Incredulously, theMyanmar government has announced on Thursday (11 October) that it is going ahead with a new auction of gems and jade next month despite calls for a boycott on precious stones from the country. The gem trade has been a major money-spinner for the military government and despite sanctions on the country, many precious stones from Myanmar find their way to markets in the West through neighbouringThailand. China is also a big buyer of these precious stones, particularly jade which is highly prized in China. (12 October 2007)
UN slams Myanmar crackdown, urges prisoner release (Channel News Asia, 12 October 2007)
Myanmar now second largest heroin exporter (Straits Times, 12 October 2007)
Myanmar to hold new gems sale despite boycott call (Channel News Asia, 11 October 2007)
Myanmar opposition cautiously welcome Suu Kyi dialogue move (Channel News Asia, 10 October 2007)