US asks India to encourage democratic transition in Myanmar

May 6th, 2008 - 12:40 pm ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 6 (IANS) The US has again urged India, China, and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to use their influence to encourage a democratic transition in Myanmar. India could also help the people of Myanmar in the aftermath of the destruction caused by Cyclone Nargis, first lady Laura Bush told reporters Monday, accusing the ruling military junta of failing to meet people’s basic needs.

“The response to the cyclone is just the most recent example of the junta’s failure to meet its people’s basic needs,” she said. “The regime has dismantled systems of agriculture, education and health care. This once wealthy nation now has the lowest per capita GDP in Southeast Asia.

“India is close, on the border there. I think there are a lot of ways they could help and get help there quickly, and maybe the Burmese government would accept it more readily from the Indian government than they do from the US government,” Laura Bush said.

Asked how the US planned to balance the objectives of maintaining financial pressure on the junta, and at the same time making sure the cyclone victims aren’t victimised once again, she said that’s always the question when sanctions are part of any sort of pressure that we can put on a government.

“And in fact that seems to be the only kind of pressure the United States can put on Burma. Certainly we hope that India, for instance, and other countries in the neighbourhood can step up if they won’t accept aid from the United States,” the first lady said.

In response to the regime’s continued repression, President George Bush has instructed the US Treasury Department to freeze assets of Myanmar state-owned companies that are held in US banks. This adds to actions last year to expand US sanctions against the junta, and to tighten sanctions against its top leaders.

“We thank the European Union, Canada and Australia for joining the United States in imposing similar restrictions. And we appeal to China, India, and Burma’s fellow Asean members to use their influence to encourage a democratic transition,” Laura Bush said.

Despite the havoc created by the cyclone, Myanmar’s military leaders plan to move forward with the constitutional referendum scheduled for May 10, Laura Bush said. “They’ve orchestrated this vote to give false legitimacy to their continued rule.”

The proposed constitution was drafted in a flawed process that excluded opposition and some key ethnic groups and would effectively give the military a veto over any constitutional changes, she said.

It would also prohibit democracy activists who are current or former political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, Laura Bush alleged.

President Bush would sign a legislation later Tuesday to award Aung San Suu Kyi the US Congressional Medal of Honour, she said.

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