The Myanmar threat

June 07, 2006

The decision by the United States last week to increase pressure on Myanmar by seeking a U.N. Security Council resolution against its continuing human rights abuses is necessary and laudable.

But the negative reactions of key world powers to the U.S. diplomatic escalation are distressingly toothless.

China, Russia and, shockingly, Japan reportedly argued in a closed Security Council meeting last Wednesday that the lack of political freedoms in the country formerly known as Burma doesn't pose a threat to world security - and therefore doesn't meet the test for such a resolution.

No wonder the generals running Myanmar's junta believe they can get away with responding to a recent visit by a senior U.N. envoy - the first in more than two years - by immediately extending the long-standing house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Burma's democratically elected leader. China, Russia and Japan essentially are saying that that sort of finger in the United Nations' eye should go unanswered.

But worse than that, Myanmar has long been a nightmare - essentially a prison for its residents and a slave labor camp for some of them, according to reports from international human rights groups. And for the rest of Southeast Asia - and the world - it has long been a leading exporter of AIDS, illegal drugs and refugees.

If Myanmar isn't considered a destabilizing situation - a threat to world security and peace worthy of attention of the U.N. Security Council - then the definition of threat is so narrow as to be blind.

A few regimes are so beyond the pale in their human rights abuses that the rest of the world should shun them as much as possible, unless it's to negotiate change. North Korea is one. Burma is clearly another.

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