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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)
SINGAPORE. Jan. 18.
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
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