Tuesday, October 2, 2007

News Feed: Australia hints at action against Burma

Today's highlighted story: The government is taking action against the gross breach of human rights in Burma. FINALLY.

Australia hints at action against Burma

October 2, 2007

Australia is flagging further action against Burma pending the outcome of a meeting between the UN's special envoy Ibrahim Gambari and the country's military leader Than Shwe.

Mr Gambari had been waiting since the weekend to see the reclusive general to express global outrage after security forces put down protests led by Buddhist monks, leaving at least 13 dead and hundreds - possibly thousands - behind bars.

Australian officials believe at least 30 people were killed and 1,400 arrested during last week's crackdown in Burma's biggest city, Rangoon.

Canberra has already tightened financial sanctions against members of Burma's military junta and foreign affairs officials last week called in Burma's most senior representative in Australia to protest developments in the isolated nation.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer indicated Australia would consider further measures if Mr Gambari's meeting was less than successful in alleviating the situation.

"I hope that Mr Gambari has some success," he told reporters.

"But if not, well then we will be talking with a number of other countries about anything further we might be able to do."

The government revealed that earlier this year it had rejected Burma's nomination for its ambassador in Canberra, Brigadier-General Thura U Thet Oo Maung.

Mr Downer admitted it was a very unusual decision but said Australia would never accept anyone from the brutal Burmese military regime as an ambassador.

"It almost never happens that Australia or any other country refuses to accept the ambassador proposed by the sending country," he said.

"In this case, Burma has a very brutal military regime and I refuse to accept a general from that regime who has had command in a couple of provinces in Burma over the years.

"I refuse to accept a general as an ambassador and told the Burmese authorities that they should send a civilian to fulfil that role, and a professional diplomat."

Australian Democrats foreign affairs spokeswoman Natasha Stott Despoja, co-convenor of Australian Parliamentarians for Democracy in Burma, welcomed the government's tough stand on the ambassador.

She urged the government not to lose focus on the situation in Burma.

"There is a danger that the world's attention will shift elsewhere now that the military junta is using force to discourage mass protests by the Burmese people," she said in a statement.

"We must not let this happen.

"Australia and the world must keep up its pressure on the Burmese regime.:

© 2007 AAP