Wednesday, October 3, 2007
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