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MYANMAR
Politics
September 2, 2007
UN chooses to remain mute on Myanmar
Myanmar's pro-democracy activists, students, Buddhist monks and citizens who are fed up with the ruling military junta in what used to be called Burma have been staging impromptu protests since Aug. 19, when the cancellation of fuel subsidies sent prices soaring. The burden is unbearable for most of the 90 percent of Myanmar's population living at or below the poverty line.

The regime has responded to the demonstrations with violent repression. Plainclothes security agents and gangs of young thugs working for the junta beat up the protesters and throw them into flatbed trucks. Among those arrested are members of the 1988 democracy movement who have already survived long prison sentences and torture. These followers of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi are expressing resistance to the dictatorship even at the risk of losing their freedom once again.

Their resoluteness should not be surprising. And there is nothing novel about the regime's response. But the resounding silence of the United Nations is hard to fathom.

Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and his special envoy for Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, have had two months to reflect on a June warning about Burma sounded by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Not since it denounced the Rwanda genocide of 1994 has the Red Cross issued such a public condemnation of a government's behavior.

Myanmar's autocratic military rulers have destroyed more villages in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities than have been razed in Darfur. Its partnership in the narcotics trade has helped spread addiction and HIV/AIDS infection to neighbors. The army's brutal conscription of forced labor has drawn sanctions from the International Labor Organization.

 Yet when the Red Cross asked to deliver humanitarian assistance to the victims, or even to engage in dialogue with the military rulers about such assistance, the junta rebuffed its requests. Boston globe reports

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