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Chretien wants Asean to pressure My

Subject: Chretien wants Asean to pressure Myanmar (19/1/97, The Hindu)

Chretien wants Asean to pressure Myanmar
>From V. Jayanth
The Hindu, 19/1/97 (New Delhi)
It was the turn of the Canadian ll'rime Minister, Mr. Jean Chretien, 
yesterday, to urge Asean to exert its influence on Myanmar to persude the 
ruling military junta to open a dialogue with the opposition 
pro-democracy movement in the country.
Now on a State visit to Thailand, the Canadian Premier made this request 
to Asean at a banquet hosted by the Thai Prime Minister. Gen. Chavalit 
Yongchaiyudh in Bangkok last night.
Sharing international concerns about the deteriorating political 
situation in Myanmar, Mr. Chretien noted: "We hope that Asean will use 
its influence with the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) to 
encourage the military regime to enter into negotiations with the Burmese 
opposition leader. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi. and the democracy movement. 
leading to national reconciliation and political reform".
He wanted to bring Myanmar into the community of nations as an 'open and 
democratic country'. Canada proposed the setting up of a U.N. contact 
group to visit Myanmar. review the situation, talk to both sides and 
assist the Secretary General in bringing about it solution. That proposal 
was made at the Asean's annual meeting with dialogue partners in Jakarta 
last year.
Asean rejected the idea and Myanmar resented it. The SLORC has even 
stopped a special envoy and rapporteur of the U.N. from visiting the 
country to complete his assessment of the human rights situation.
Though the Canadian proposal was rejected by Asean, attempts were still 
going on at the United Nations to get the international body to intervene 
and take steps for the restoration of democracy in Myanmar.
Mr. Chretien was echoing much the same sentiment as the President. Mr. 
Bill Clinton. did on a similar visit to Thailand in the end of November. 
Mr. Clinton too called for an end to authoritarianism and restoration of 
democracy in Myanmar. Both of them considered it, imperative to speak 
their mind on Myanmar from its doorstep -- Thailand.
Meanwhile, human Rights Watch -- Asia. released another of its report on 
the situation in Myanmar, highlighting the 'atrocities' under military 
rule. It spoke of rape, forced labour, torture, arbitrary detention and 
forced relocation of people in Myanmar last year. Apart from large-scale 
relocation, the report focused on the forced recruitment of young boys, 
even at 13, into the army.
In Yangon, 15 ethnic groups representing the regions and the national 
tribes of Myanmar, appealed to the SLORC in a statement, to open 
tripartite talks involving the junta, ethnic groups and the National 
League for Democracy (NLD), led by Ms. Suu Kyi. They described that as 
the best way to achieve genuine national reconciliation.
Most of these groups were part of the National Convention that was now 
drafting the new Constitution and the NLD walked out of that body more 
than a year ago. The SLORC made truce with these ethnic groups and got 
them to participate in the drafting exercise. "'That these groups should 
now call for the involvement of the pro-democracy movement could be a 
sign of the times.
More significantly, the ethnic groups urged Asean not to admit Myanmar in 
a hurry into its fold. but to delay, it till there was a positive change 
in the political climate in the country.
Sources close to the NLD said over telephone that despite the pressure 
and intimidation of the junta, public opinion in the country was 
crystallising in favour oils renewed struggle to restore democracy.
"The NLD has been encouraged by recent developments and the feedback Seem 
to have got gives the impression that the Burmese people want Ms. Suu Kyi 
to stand firm and step up the struggle. We will not be surprised if the 
pro-democracy movement here takes a leaf out of the happenings in Serbia 
or Bulgaria to put pressure on the junta to relent slid accept the 
people's verdict and respect their feelings", the sources explained, 
without elaborating on any new strategy under consideration.
"It is still too early to say, anything categorical now. There are 
different sections of the Burmese society that are now protesting 
independently against the military regime. The people are still afraid 
and intimidated. But it cannot go beyond a point. The Burmese will stand 
up for their freedom", the sources added.
The SLORC today announced that 20 persons had been sentenced to seven 
years imprisonment for their role in the student protests that rocked 
Yangon last month, They were tried under the Emergency Act for inciting 
and instigating the student protests. Six of them were activists of the 
National League for Democracy, led by Ms. Suu Kyi. The Government took 
pains to point out that none of the 20 was a student.
20 jailed for role in student unrest
BANGKOK. Jan. 18.
Myanmar today sentenced 20 people, including six members of' Ms. Aung San 
Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), for seven years 
imprisonment for their role in student unrest last month. The 20 were 
jailed for "inciting and agitating students and non-students during 
December 1996 student demonstrations" in Yangon, Myanmerese military 
intelligence said in a statement received here.
The statement said the sentences were carried out under the country's 
Emergency Act of 1950 but did not say when. It added that none of those 
sentenced, whose identities were not given, were students. Opposition 
official by telephone in Yangon said they have no information of 
sentencing. Up to 1,000 students took part in the protest, which was 
ringed by non-student supporters before it was violently broken up by 
armed riot police and troops on December 7.  --  AFP