Thursday, March 6, 2008

Burma 'lying doggo' for UN

From correspondents in London | March 07, 2008

BRITAIN has accused Burma's military regime of paying only lip service to international calls for democratic reforms, as the UN special envoy embarked on a fresh round of talks there.

A senior British official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the ruling junta's co-operation with the UN had been "very minimalist" since the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters that cause global outrage last year.

"I think the Burmese government is playing a clever game," he said after Ibrahim Gambari flew into Rangoon to push for detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's inclusion in a May referendum and eventual elections.

The junta were keeping their heads down, he said. "They are lying doggo. They are not doing anything that is sufficiently outrageous to get them on the front pages of the world's newspapers again".

The official, who said the proposed constitution to be voted on had "obvious flaws", charged that arrests of suspected dissidents continued while none of the estimated 1100 long-term political prisoners had been released.

And of the 3000 thought to have been picked up during protests last year, between 500 and 1000 remained in custody, he added.

"They have gone about co-operation with the UN in a very minimalist way. The co-operation really has not been there. They have not accounted for the detainees. They have not released detainees.

"They have done little to cooperate with Dr Gambari's good office mission. And they have done nothing really to facilitiate a genuine process of dialogue with the opposition.

"They have had a series of mechanical meetings between the government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi but there has never been sense that any dialogue is being developed," he added, referring to the National League for Democracy leader.

The fact that Aung San Suu Kyi and her elderly deputy, plus other political leaders, were still under house arrest "tells you all you need to know about their ambitions for an inclusive political process," he added.

Britain, which refuses to recognise the military junta, has made the push for democratic reform in its former colony a top priority, identifying progress as key to greater stability and economic prosperity in Myanmar and the region.

Foreign Office minister Meg Munn said Burma was a "drag" on the wider development of the 10-member Asian and South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) economic bloc.

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