Fri, Oct 24, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Group urges pressure on Myanmar during summit

AGENCIES , BEIJING

Asian and European leaders gathering for a summit in Beijing should put pressure on military-ruled Myanmar to improve human rights and embark upon real political reform, a rights group said.

Leaders from countries including China, Japan, Germany, France, Denmark and much of Southeast Asia will be at the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit, an ideal venue to tackle the former Burma’s problems, Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

“ASEM members have a chance to challenge Burma to make political reforms and start respecting basic freedoms,” the group’s Asia director, Brad Adams said. “Silence over the human rights abuses in today’s Burma isn’t an option anymore for ASEM leaders.”

Myanmar has been pursuing its own “roadmap” to democracy, which included a referendum on an army-drafted constitution that Western nations condemned.

Myanmar drew international condemnation last year for a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators led by monks and is still keeping the opposition leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest.

The EU should also put pressure on the summit’s host, China, and other Asian countries that have close ties with Myanmar, the group said.

“China and India in particular have forged close relations with [Myanmar],” it said. “Both countries are major arms suppliers to and significant investors in Burma, and have vied for rights to import natural gas from Burma. The EU has tried to press Burma at past ASEM meetings, but as long as other key Asian countries fail to pick up the torch, improvements are highly unlikely.”

“Since Burma’s [Myanmar’s] rulers have stonewalled on the efforts by the UN to bring about real change, its up to ASEM ministers to send a message that sham political reforms are unacceptable,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Myanmar’s ruling junta has been in the spotlight again this year for its inhumane handling of the Cyclone Nargis tragedy, that left an estimated 138,000 people dead or missing after smashing into the country’s southern Irrawaddy delta region on May 2 to May 3.

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