Western Nations ″Deeply Troubled″ by Myanmar Crackdown | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 26.09.2007
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Western Nations "Deeply Troubled" by Myanmar Crackdown

The European Union and United States called for the international community to enact sanctions against Myanmar for the deadly crackdown against Buddhist monks and other pro-democracy protesters.

Buddhist monks take to the streets of Yangon as smoke rises in the background

Led by Buddhist monks, thousands of pro-democracy protesters took to the streets

"We are deeply troubled by reports that security forces have fired on and attacked peaceful demonstrators and arrested many Buddhist monks and others," the US and EU said in a joint statement before a UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 26.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with top EU officials in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

"We condemn all violence against peaceful demonstrators and remind the country's leaders of their personal responsibility for their actions," the joint statement said. At least four people were reported to have been killed when security forces clamped down on anti-government protests led by Buddhist monks in Yangon, the country's main city.

The EU-US statement also called on China, India and members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to press the Myanmar government to enter into a dialogue with the opposition.

UN envoy to return to Myanmar

Military troops on a road

Russia said it was up to Myanmar leaders to find a solution to the situation

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was dispatching Gambari to the region and called on Myanmar's leaders to cooperate with the envoy's mission. It was not immediately clear if Gambari would be permitted to enter the Asian nation.

The EU and the United States have targeted asset freezes and visa bans on some 375 members of the Myanmar leadership. US State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said discussions were already underway regarding possible Security Council sanctions.

EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the EU's measures could be expanded.

"Maybe some ban on logging, for instance, because there it seems a lot of money is being made," she said, according to Reuters.

Sanction split

The Security Council has been split on acting against Myanmar. At the beginning of 2007, China and Russia vetoed a resolution calling for Myanmar to enact democratic reforms and put an end to the persecution of minorities and opposition members.

Buddhist monks and others march through the streets of Yangon

Protests began when the government hiked fuel prices

At a meeting of Group of Eight foreign ministers' meeting Wednesday, Rice clashed with her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, over the sanctions issues, Reuters reported, citing anonymous sources.

Russian officials have said the events in Myanmar an "internal matter" for the country to resolve on its own and it trusted the junta to use restraint.

Call for dialog

Washington and Brussels called on the ruling Myanmar junta to halt the violence against the monks and begin dialog with democratic activists, including leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for years and was transferred to jail since the unrest began.

Riot police fired tear gas at columns of monks trying to push their way past barricades sealing off the Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar's holiest shrine and the starting point of marches that mushroomed from small protests against huge fuel price increases. Angry crowds filled the streets of Yangon, defying the military violence meant to curb the biggest anti-government protests in 20 years.

Yangon's pagoda area was the scene of the worst bloodshed in a 1988 crackdown on protests in which 3,000 people are thought to have been killed. Myanmar has had 45 years of military rule.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, said from her headquarters in Geneva that the military government should refrain from using force against peaceful demonstrators.

"The use of excessive force and all forms of arbitrary detention, of peaceful protesters are strictly prohibited under international law," she said.

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