Southeast Asian lawmakers urge U.N. to unite key global players behind democracy program for Myanmar

Southeast Asian lawmakers urged the United Nations to launch a new initiative to unite the European Union, the United States, China and other key nations behind a program leading to democracy in military-ruled Myanmar.

The lawmakers said Monday that Myanmar's government has become even more hard-line under junta chairman Senior Gen. Than Shwe, who ousted former prime minister Gen. Khin Nyunt last October, and they saw no hope of any real democratic reforms without concerted international political pressure. While many countries find the current situation unacceptable, the lawmakers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' Inter-Parliamentary Caucus on Democracy in Myanmar said there is no agreement or coordination among key nations on how to move forward.

The ASEAN parliamentarians called on Secretary-General Kofi Annan or the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France, to take the initiative to get the major countries with a stake in Myanmar to agree on steps to achieve democracy.

"We feel that the military generals in Myanmar will not change, will not accommodate the expectations of the people of Burma for more representative government, for more democracy, for a better economy, for stability because ... in spite of all their promises they have not done anything in a tangible way to show that they are serious about accommodating these expectations," said Malaysian lawmaker Zaid Ibrahim, the caucus chairman.

Thai Senator Jon Ungphakorn said the caucus would like to see the European Union, the United States, Canada, ASEAN, China, Japan, India and Russia agree on "joint efforts to put pressure on the regime in Burma to at least come up with minimum standards of democratic reforms which would include the release of political prisoners (and) dialogue with the various parties concerned."

"There is no apparent progress toward democracy, no apparent move to release (pro-democracy leader) Aung San Suu Kyi," Ungphakorn told a news conference. "There are reports of widespread rape by Burmese soldiers against various ethnic peoples," reports the AP. I.L.

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