UNSC Fails to Take Strong Action

14th Aug 2009, irrawaddy news

The UN Security Council on Thursday expressed “concern” at the conviction and sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi this week and called on the Burmese regime to release all political prisoners in order to achieve national reconciliation.

However, the world body once again failed to achieve consensus to take stronger measures against the military junta, disappointing pro-democracy and human rights groups, some of which were demanding at least an arms embargo against the junta.

After nearly two days of formal and informal deliberations, the 15-member Security Council issued a statement, originally drafted by the United States.

Sentenced to another 18 months under house arrest, the verdict against the leader of the pro-democracy movement has drawn condemnation from leaders across the globe, with France calling for an arms embargo. However, in the absence of consensus, the Security Council could only issue a statement similar to ones issued during the past two years.

“Members of the Security Council express serious concern at the conviction and sentencing of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and its political impact,” said John Sawers, the British ambassador to the UN, who is the Security Council president for the month of August.

“The members of the Security Council note the decision of the Government of Myanmar to reduce Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s sentence and urge the Government of Myanmar to take further measures to create the necessary conditions for a genuine dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all concerned parties and ethnic groups in order to achieve an inclusive national reconciliation,” Sawers said.

Reading from the statement, Sawers said: “Members of the Security Council reaffirm their statements of 11 October 2007, 2 May 2008 and 22 May 2009 on Myanmar, and reiterate the importance of the release of all political prisoners.”

The statement continued: “The members of the Security Council affirm their commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Myanmar, and in that context, reiterate that the future of Myanmar lies in the hands of all of its people.”

Following the sentencing by a Rangoon court early this week, the first meeting of the Security Council was held on Tuesday at the request of France. A proposed draft statement was circulated by the United States to respective capitals. Members of the Security Council agreed on the wording of the statement on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said Aung San Suu Kyi’s conviction is a violation of universal principles of human rights. “The Burmese regime should immediately and unconditionally release her and the more than 2,100 other political prisoners currently being held,” she said.

“Aung San Suu Kyi’s sentencing also precludes her from taking part in the elections scheduled for next year, and thus undermines the legitimacy of those elections,” Rice said.

Rice said: “Rather than using this moment to create the necessary conditions for a genuine dialogue and inclusive political process with all actors, the Burmese authorities have now moved further away from national reconciliation and deepened their isolation from the rest of the world.”

US President Barack Obama earlier this week issued a statement saying “suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.”


Obama, Clinton Call for Suu Kyi’s Immediate Release

12nd Aug 2009, irrawaddy news,

WASHINGTON—US President Barack Obama, and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, on Tuesday called for the immediate and unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the popular leader of Burma, who has been sentenced to an additional 18 months of house arrest.

Both Obama, who is currently battling on the domestic front on the issue of health care,  and Clinton, who was in Congo, were quick to issue statements following the verdict from Rangoon.

Calling it an unjust decision, Obama said: “The conviction and sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi today on charges related to an uninvited intrusion into her home violate universal principles of human rights, run counter to Burma’s commitments under the Asean charter, and demonstrate continued disregard for UN Security Council statements.”

The US president called on the Burmese regime to heed the views of its own people and the international community and to work toward genuine national reconciliation.

Addressing a press conference with the foreign minister of Congo, Clinton said, “The Burmese junta should immediately end its repression of so many in this country, and start a dialogue with the opposition and the ethnic groups.”

Otherwise, the elections they have scheduled for next year will have absolutely no legitimacy, she warned.

At the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the US State Department, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs, P J Crowley, conceded that the continuation of house arrest of Suu Kyi would have a negative impact on the review of the US’s Burma policy, currently being undertaken by the Obama administration.

“The Burmese government action is completely unacceptable,” Crowley said. “Based on the facts of the case, in essence, she was convicted of being polite. This is a thinly veiled effort by the Burmese government to keep her on the sidelines for elections next year,” he said.

Crowley said the US would have extensive conversation with its allies and other regional partners as to what to do in light of the Burmese government’s action.

“In terms of our ongoing review, clearly, this will have a negative effect,” he said.

“You think about the government. They are afraid of a 64-year-old woman who probably weighs barely a hundred pounds. But what she represents is an idea that this is government by the people and on behalf of the people rather than government by the few for the benefit of a few,” Crowley said. 

“And clearly, like we have in many other circumstances, there is an opportunity for a different kind of relationship by Burma with not only the United States but also the rest of the international community. And clearly, we feel this is a step in the wrong direction,” he said.

Several influential US lawmakers also joined the chorus of worldwide condemnation.

“The Burmese dictatorship is making a serious mistake by sentencing Aung San Suu Kyi to additional imprisonment,” said Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator John Kerry. 

The junta’s actions cast serious doubt on the potential for legitimate elections next year and only reinforce longstanding international concerns about the military junta’s treatment of its own people, he said.

“The junta’s latest unjust and short-sighted actions only serves to move the government further down the path of continued international isolation,” he said.

Terming it as a politically motivated verdict, the House of Representatives speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said this is a “step backward” for the future of Burma.

“The international community must send a clear message that elections in Burma, planned for 2010, will not be open or credible without the participation of imprisoned and detained pro-democracy leaders,” she said.

Meanwhile, three major Burmese dissident groups—the All Burma Monks’ Alliance, the 88 Generation Students, and the All Burma Federation of Student Unions—urged Senator Jim Webb not to visit Burma as he had scheduled.

“We are concerned that the military regime will manipulate and exploit your visit and propagandize that you endorse their treatment on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and over 2,100 political prisoners, their human rights abuses on the people of Burma, and their systematic, widespread and ongoing attack against the ethnic minorities,” they said in an open letter to Webb.

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