Fri 29 Feb 2008
Filed under: International,News
The ruling Burmese junta faces a “bleak” future if it continues to reject the national reconciliation process being pushed by United Nations Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari, a senior US diplomat warned Friday.
“The future of that regime is bleak, so they should try to respond,” Christopher Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, told a seminar in Bangkok.
Gambari, who is seeking an international consensus on how to handle Burma, is due to visit the country next month after being denied a visa for weeks.
Since 1962, Burma has been ruled by a military regime that has earned itself one of the world’s worst human rights records after two brutal crackdowns on pro-democracy movements in 1988 and more recently in September 2007. It has arrested thousands of political dissidents including Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent 12 of the past 18 years under house arrest.
The regime has promised to hold a referendum this year to approve a new constitution, which will institutionalize military rule, and elections in 2010, but there is great skepticism that the processes will be free and fair.
Instead, many within the international community are hoping that Gambari will succeed in persuading the military to open a genuine political dialogue with opposition figures such as Suu Kyi and ethnic groups to forge a national reconciliation process that could lead to a genuine democracy.
“There is a good political process out there with Gambari, and it behooves the Burmese government to try to meet him,” Hill said.
The senior diplomat, addressing an audience at Chulalongkorn University, warned that the US would continue to put diplomatic pressure on Burma, including sanctions, until a legitimate solution to the country’s problems is found.
“So let’s see if the Burmese authorities understand that we have a have a lot of options for dealing with Burma, but we do not have the option of turning our backs and forgetting the problem,” he said.