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