EU foreign ministers condemn Suu Kyi ’show trial’ (Lead)

May 18th, 2009 - 5:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Brussels, May 18 (DPA) European Union foreign ministers Monday condemned as a “show trial” the legal process against Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
But they shied away from adding to the bloc’s sanctions against the Myanmar military regime, saying that these had so far failed to have any significant impact on its actions, and that the EU should instead turn to regional powers such as China and India for help.

“The house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi is bad enough, but for her to be put on show trial just adds to the pain… The regime should be under no illusions about the isolation it brings upon itself through its actions,” British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said as he arrived in Brussels for talks with EU counterparts.

The meeting in Brussels came as Myanmar’s pro-democracy icon went on trial in Yangon for allegedly breaking the terms of her house arrest.

One month ago, EU foreign ministers extended through April 2010 a package of sanctions against some 500 regime figures and their families, as well as against some 80 businesses linked to the regime, in a bid to urge them towards democratic reforms.

The ensuing arrest and trial of Suu Kyi, seen as a slap in the face to the EU, has led to calls for those sanctions to be deepened.

“This is not the moment to lower the sanctions, this is the moment to increase them,” said EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

The Czech government, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, is “ready to discuss the reinforcement of sanctions,” but first there “will be a call on the Burmese authorities to release Aung San Suu Kyi”, its foreign minister, Jan Kohout, said.

But other ministers pointed out that the extension of the sanctions had not stopped the Myanmar regime putting Suu Kyi on trial just a fortnight before her six years of house arrest were to end.

The sanctions “have not achieved much. This is one of the big problems that we always have with sanction policies”, Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb said.

Instead, a number of top officials called on the EU to step up its cooperation with China, India and other regional actors in a bid to pressurize the Myanmar regime.

“We have to reinforce the dialogue with Burma’s neighbours… We have been doing all of that, but maybe not in a sufficient way,” EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said.

“We have to engage with the other countries in the region,” agreed Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country will assume the EU presidency on July 1.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi, 63, was expected to plead not guilty to charges of breaking the terms of her house detention by allowing a US national to swim to her secluded home earlier this month.

The junta’s critics have accused it of using the episode as a pretext to keep Suu Kyi in jail during a politically sensitive period leading up to a general election planned for next year.

Last week, EU member states called her detention a “clear breach of international norms” and expressed “deep regret” over the decision by a Yangon court to formally charge her.

Developments in Myanmar were expected to dominate the twice-yearly meeting of EU foreign, defence and development ministers.

While in Brussels, ministers were also expected to discuss other pressing issues, ranging from piracy in Somalia to the conflicts in Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

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