Washington: The US is pushing China, India and Japan to use their influence to increase pressure on Myanmar’s military leaders after a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters last week, a senior US diplomat said onWednesday.
Angry US lawmakers called for the US and the world to do more; they also heaped criticism on China, Myanmar’s top trading partner, for not taking a stronger stand.
Scot Marciel, a deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia, told a senate sub-committee that the junta’s squashing of demonstrations with gunfire, tear gas and baton charges has reinforced the Bush administration’s commitment to see that democracy is restored in Myanmar.
“We’re working to turn the international outrage into increased pressure on the regime,” he said, by pushing Myanmar’s Asian neighbours and others to do more.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, has vast oil and gas deposits that are coveted by its neighbours and by large companies around the world.
India and China, reluctant to criticize the junta in the past, are seen as crucial to pressuring the junta into accepting international demands.
Marciel said that while China is worried about the situation in Myanmar, it has not yet shown willingness to go beyond calls for restraint. He said a key test would be China’s reaction when the matter comes before the United Nations Security Council.
After crushing large protests last week, the junta has now begun dragging people from their homes at night and letting others know they are marked for detention.
The crisis began on 19 August with rallies against a fuel-price increase; it escalated when Buddhist monks joined in, drawing world attention. The government says 10 people were killed in the crackdown, but dissident groups put the toll at about 200. They add some 6,000 people have been arrested, including thousands of monks.
The US has responded by imposing new sanctions on the junta’s leaders.
But, senator John Kerry, a Democrat, said sanctions by the US alone will not work without action by Myanmar’s neighbours—especially China, whose economic relationship with Myanmar is allowing the junta to survive.
Republican senator Mitch McConnell expressed frustration with China, India and Thailand for, he said, ignoring the generals’ abuse in order to do business with Myanmar.
“None of the neighbours seem to have much interest in applying the real pressure that would bring a change,” senator McConnell said. “Their attitude largely seems to be that it would be bad for business to side with protesters.”
Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962. The current junta came to power after snuffing out a 1988 pro-democracy movement against the previous military dictatorship, killing at least 3,000 people in the process.