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Keeping the momentum on Myanmar

Touristclick Indonesia Travel News

Keeping the momentum on Myanmar
The world has reacted with horror to the Myanmarese regime's brutal crackdown against its own people. Monks, nuns and ordinary citizens took to the streets peacefully in protest at the deterioration of the economic situation in the country. They were met with guns and batons. We cannot know for sure the number of those who were killed but it is likely to be many more than the regime is willing to admit. The whereabouts and welfare of many who have been detained remains uncertain. And meanwhile the persecution continues: the security forces carry out new raids and new arrests every night.

It is vital that international pressure is maintained on the Myanmarese regime. The generals may have hoped that by shutting off the Internet and targeting the media they could hide their crimes from the eyes of the world. If so, they have failed. This horrific repression has provoked disgust and anger across the globe.

The immediate priority is to end the violence and secure the release of all of the political detainees. At the same time, it is vital that the regime works urgently with the UN Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari to establish a genuine process of national reconciliation. That process will of course need to be very different from the widely discredited "National Convention Process" over which the regime has labored for many years without winning the confidence of Myanmar's population. It must involve Aung San Suu Kyi and the leaders of all Myanmar's political opposition and ethnic groups: and it must have international legitimacy, with the UN and Myanmar's neighbors closely engaged.

Everyone who has influence on the Myanmarese regime must now use it to convince them of this new reality. The regime has now seen a very strong statement by the UN Security Council deploring the violence, calling for the release of all political prisoners and a supporting genuine dialogue with all concerned parties and ethnic groups in Myanmar.
The junta will have heard ASEAN countries express their revulsion at the recent violence by the security forces. China, as well as joining the Security Council statement, directly supported Professor Gambari's recent visit to Myanmar. It is clear that, for ASEAN in particular, turning a blind eye to such a repressive government would jeopardize the whole process of democratization and development of this region and damages its credibility.

Last month, as the demonstrations grew in intensity, the EU made it clear that it would not hesitate to impose tougher measures against the regime if it resorted to force against peaceful demonstrators. Sadly, the regime failed to heed this and many similar warnings. So Europe's foreign ministers met on Monday to discuss how to toughen up sanctions against the Myanmarese regime.

The EU also expressed its readiness to help Myanmar in its process of transition: should the regime show its willingness to genuinely work for reconciliation we will remove restrictive measures, engage more fully on development and look for new areas of cooperation. In the meantime we will continue to provide vital humanitarian assistance to the Myanmarese people in order to alleviate the suffering of the population.

EU sanctions and incentives, of course, can only be part of a wider process aimed at creating a genuine process of reconciliation in Myanmar.The key role must be played by the Myanmarese people themselves, in all their diversity. Myanmar's regional partners have understandable concerns that the necessary political changes should not endanger regional stability. So the process must be broad-based and inclusive.

And, as Aung San Suu Kyi has herself said, the military must play an important part in a future democratic Myanmar. But the military dictatorship must end.

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