ASEAN condemns Burma crackdown

September 28, 2007

UNITED NATIONS: Southeast Asian nations have demanded that Burma's military junta immediately stop using violence against protestors, as George W. Bush urged China to pressure the regime to move toward democracy.

Eight protesters and a Japanese journalist were killed yesterday as pockets of pro-democracy supporters defied Burmese troop threats of "extreme action" against those who did not leave the streets of Rangoon.

The police and military were out in force again today, patrolling the deserted streets of Rangoon., and it was not immediately clear if demonstrators would again gather.

All roads leading to the main pagodas, which have been the focal points of the unrest in the devoutly Buddhist nation, were sealed off with barbed wire and barricades.

Most businesses were closed as many companies told workers not to come in.

Yesterday police gave protesters 10 minutes to disperse or face the "extreme action". But when a crowd of 1000 refused to disperse, police charged, firing automatic weapons.

Eight people were killed, including a high school student, a witness said, saying the bodies were left in the street for about an hour.

''A captain finally led a group of soldiers to pick up the dead bodies, and he ordered that no one was allowed to bury them,'' one witness said.

A Japanese video journalist, Kenji Nagai, from APF news in Tokyo became the first foreigner killed since the protests began 10 days ago.

However, in an indication today that global pressure was beginning to work, UN leaders were told by Burma officials that UN chief Ban Ki-moon's special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, would be granted a visa to visit the country to assess the situation.

And in a previously unannounced meeting, Mr Bush told Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi he hoped China would use its influence to help bring a peaceful transition to democracy in Burma.

Mr Bush also thanked Mr Yang for China's help in facilitating Mr Gambari's visit to Burma,.

China on Thursday also issued its first public call for Burma's military rulers to show ``restraint'' in handling anti-government protests but did not condemn the ongoing crackdown.

But ministers from the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which has long had a policy of non-interference in the affairs of Burma, had unusually sharp words for its fellow member at a meeting at the UN.

``They were appalled to receive reports of automatic weapons being used and demanded that the Burma government immediately desist from the use of violence against demonstrators,'' Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo said.

The ministers ``expressed their revulsion to Burma Foreign Minister Nyan Win over reports that the demonstrations in Burma are being suppressed by violent force and that there has been a number of fatalities,'' he said.

They strongly urged Burma to exercise restraint and seek a political solution, and wanted the ruling junta to resume national reconciliation with all parties and work towards a peaceful transition to democracy.

The US administration has also ordered a freeze on the assets of Burma's military leader Than Shwe and 13 other senior officials, and barred them from entering the US.

Australia has ruled out support for economic sanctions to pressure the regime, but tougher travel restrictions will be applied to members of the Burmese junta.
The federal Government would examine what other options were available through UN Security Council action, John Howard said. Ambassador to Burma Bob Davis predicted the Burmese would continue to defy the junta.

ASEAN ministers urged the junta to grant Mr Gambari ``full access'' to all parties in Burma, including Nobel peace laureate and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent most of the last 17 years under house arrest.

ASEAN also warned Burma that the bloody crisis was having ``a serious impact on the reputation and credibility of ASEAN.''


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