Thu 30 Mar 2006
Filed under: International,News
A top State Department specialist on Asia says the United States is committed to galvanizing U.N. support for action on Myanmar.
Eric John, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that before a rare U.N. Security Council briefing last year on the political and social deterioration in Myanmar, also called Burma, many countries had been “willing to effectively turn a blind eye to what’s happening in Burma.”
After the briefing, John said, countries realized that Myanmar’s problems with refugees, disease and drugs hurt the region. And that, he said, is helping the United States “make a case that there’s an obligation for other nations to be interested and be involved in finding a solution for Burma.”
John said it was difficult to predict when U.S. efforts might result in action at the United Nations, but “we want to keep up that pressure as long as it takes.”
Myanmar is run by a military junta that has kept pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in detention for 10 of the last 16 years; she is among some 1,100 political prisoners.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican head of the powerful subcommittee that considers funding for international programs, testified that lawmakers and the administration of President George W. Bush must continue to encourage Myanmar’s neighbors to confront the generals in Myanmar.
McConnell praised the State Department’s willingness to pressure countries to speak out against Myanmar. “Frustration with the junta is palpable in some capitals,” he said.
He called on Congress to renew existing import sanctions, saying they should “remain in place until Suu Kyi and other Burmese champions of freedom call for them to be lifted.”
On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged China and India to press Myanmar more strongly on its human rights violations. China and India maintain close ties with Myanmar, despite international calls to isolate the country until democracy is implanted there.
John testified on Wednesday that India should encourage reform in Myanmar, “rather than appearing publicly to accept the status quo.”