Myanmar dismisses UN call for dialogue

It says recent events are not the concern of the outside world.

MYANMAR’S military government yesterday dismissed a United Nations statement calling for dialogue with the pro-democracy opposition.

State-run media issued a statement last night saying that conditions in Myanmar – a reference to the crushing of anti-government protests last month – were not the concern of the outside world.

The development dealt a blow to the mission of UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, and came on the eve of his departure on a six-nation tour in an attempt to resolve the situation in the country.

The statement said “Myanmar’s current situation does not affect regional and international stability.

“However, we deeply regret that the UN Security Council has issued a statement contrary to the people’s desires,” it added.

The Security Council statement censured the military junta for its violent crackdown on protesters, an unknown number of whom were killed. Professor Gambari will visit Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia next week, followed by trips to China, Japan and India.

He told The Straits Times in an exclusive interview yesterday: “We believe that all these countries have a very important role to play in helping my mission to succeed.”

The seasoned Nigerian diplomat, who recently concluded a round of consultations with nations including Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, added: “I am very gratified that Asean countries, in their statement issued by Singapore’s Foreign Minister in his capacity as chair, very strongly supported my mission in Myanmar.”

Asked whether national reconciliation between the military government and the opposition led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was achievable, Prof Gambari said: “It is not whether, but how and when.”

He noted that an international consensus was emerging on the issue. Prof Gambari said the Security Council’s statement was a “tangible sign of progress” towards resolving the issue.

Though watered down from a Western-drafted original, the statement, which called for dialogue between the country’s military rulers and the opposition, marked the first action on Myanmar by the council.

The council includes China, which had previously blocked efforts to censure Myanmar.

Its statement, which also called for the release of all political prisoners and the launch of talks between the government and the opposition, was welcomed by many countries, including the US, Britain, Japan and Singapore, which yesterday urged the Myanmar government to “heed the wishes of the international community and to extend its fullest cooperation with Mr Gambari”.

Prof Gambari told ST that national reconciliation between the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy was key to breaking the impasse.

He said there were signs that they were prepared to talk, noting that when he met Ms Suu Kyi last month, she was more receptive to a dialogue than before.

Asked for his impression of Myanmar’s rulers, he said: “The junta is stubborn. They have been isolated for so long. Their priority is really stability.”

Looking ahead, he ticked off a list of other signs of progress such as an end to violence, the release of political prisoners, including Ms Suu Kyi, and the adoption of a broad-based Constitution.

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