Wednesday, October 3, 2007

CNA - US eager for UN envoy report on Myanmar

WASHINGTON : The United States on Tuesday took a wait-and-see approach to a UN special envoy's visit to Myanmar after a deadly crackdown on protests there and said it looked forward to his report.

Asked whether Washington was satisfied that the envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, had been able to meet with everyone he had hoped during the trip, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said: "It sounds like it."

"The first reports are that he did get to meet with several of the people that he wanted to meet with. But we won't know fully until he's able to return to the United Nations and report to the Security Council," said Perino.

Gambari was expected to do so on Thursday or Friday, White House national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe said after the envoy met with Myanmar's top general and with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, wrapping up efforts to halt a crackdown on anti-government protests.

Earlier, Perino had incorrectly said that the diplomat was expected to report back "later today."

Gambari had waited for days to see the reclusive military supremo in order to express global outrage after his regime put down demonstrations led by Buddhist monks, leaving at least 13 dead and more than 1,000 arrested.

After meeting Than Shwe in the remote capital Naypyidaw, Gambari made a brief surprise visit to Aung San Suu Kyi, whom he also saw on Sunday, in the main city of Yangon before heading to Singapore, UN officials said.

After landing in the city-state he was whisked away from waiting reporters and did not immediately comment.

Gambari's high-level talks came as activists struggled to assess the scope of the crackdown - for which the junta said it was not to blame - and to find hundreds of dissidents, monks and civilians who were arrested or are missing.

UN and junta officials told AFP that at least 1,000 people have been detained at the Government Technical Institute campus in Yangon.

"Since there are some journalists who are there able to report out, we would hope that those numbers are accurate. But it is possible that the numbers are higher and we would have a lot of concern about that," said Perino.

The US House of Representatives meanwhile voted by 413 votes to two on Tuesday for a resolution calling for the release from house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, and an immediate halt to attacks against civilians by the junta.

It also called on China to pressure Myanmar's generals and for the UN Security Council to act on the crisis.

A similar resolution passed the Senate on Monday.

Last week, the Bush administration slapped visa bans on more than 30 members of the Myanmar junta and their families, in addition to a punishing range of already enforced economic sanctions. - AFP/ch

CNA - UN rights council condemns Myanmar crackdown

GENEVA : The United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday passed a motion condemning the crackdown on peaceful protests by the military junta in Myanmar.

The council "strongly deplores the continued violent repression of peaceful demonstrations in Myanmar ... and urges the government of Myanmar to exercise utmost restraint and to desist from further violence against peaceful protesters," according to the text of the approved resolution.

The motion also called for the immediate release of all those detained in the recent protests, and of other political prisoners including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The approved text differs slightly from the original version proposed by the European Union, which urged the council to "strongly condemn" the crackdown.

The motion was passed without a vote because no objections were raised.

Council President Doru Romulus Costea hailed the decision but urged the 47 members to match their words with actions.

"The time for rhetoric is over, the time for action has come," he told reporters following the session.

The UN special rapporteur on Myanmar, who has been denied access to the country since 2003, said it was vital the junta allow him to visit to establish the true situation.

"They must, they must invite me to go to the country," Paulo Sergio Pinheiro told journalists.

"We need to have an assessment. How many people died? How many people were sent to the hospital?"

Protests erupted in the southeast Asian country in mid-August after a massive hike in the price of fuel, but escalated two weeks ago when Buddhist monks emerged to lead the movement and drew up to 100,000 people onto the streets.

The protests have abated in recent days following last week's bloody clashes, but UN and regime officials told AFP on Tuesday that over 1,000 people remain detained at a campus in the main city of Yangon.

UN Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour said earlier that Myanmar's leaders should not be allowed to escape international scrutiny.

"The shocking response ... is only the most recent manifestation of the repression of fundamental rights and freedoms that has taken place for nearly 20 years in Myanmar," she said.

"The Myanmar authorities should no longer expect that the self-imposed isolation will shield them from accountability. As the protesters become invisible, our concern only increases."

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband welcomed the "strong resolution" from the UN rights council. In a statement in London he said it "keeps the brutality of the Burmese (Myanmar) regime in the international spotlight".

"The entire world has seen the regime as it has beaten and killed its own people: and we are united in our disgust," he said.

Myanmar's ambassador U Nyunt Swe said the protests had sought to overthrow government and had been stoked by outside interests, but that the government had managed to restore calm.

"The government has firm evidence that these protests were being helped both financially and materially by internal and external anti-government elements," he told the council.

"As all are aware, things have calmed down. We are able to bring normalisation to the situation," he added.

Myanmar has been the focus of a flurry of diplomatic activity since a government crackdown on anti-regime protests turned bloody last week with at least 13 people reported killed.

UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari met Myanmar's military chief leader Than Shwe in the nation's capital on Tuesday, as the military regime insisted it was not to blame for the crackdown.

Gambari will brief UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council on his talks on Thursday and Friday, a spokesman for the UN chief said in New York.

Britain's UN deputy ambassador Karen Pierce told reporters on Tuesday that any move by the 15-member Security Council would depend on the outcome of Gambari's mission.

"Everybody wants to hear what Gambari has to say... We need to see what sort of territory we're in," the British diplomat said. - AFP/de

CNN - Brutal crack down in Rangoon

CNN has obtained an incriminating footage showing riot police brutally beating protesters as they were loaded into a truck.