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UN demands release of political prisoners

October 12, 2007

China’s support for the Burmese military junta seems to have been somewhat weakened by protests from the rest of the world. Thursday October 11., China supported a UN security council statement rebuking the military regime for its suppression of peaceful protests, and demanding the release of all political prisoners. According to the Guardian, the statement also called for “genuine dialogue” with the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, but fell short of threatening sanctions.

While demands without any mention of consequences probably is not enough to make the Burmese junta release any prisoners, the statement still marks an important change in the relationship between China, Burma and the UN. The security council had to water down the statement considerably in order to win Chinese approval, scrapping a demand for the junta to account for what had happened to detained demonstrators, and a call for a transition to democracy. However, the fact that China now supports a statement demanding release of political prisoners should signal clearly to the Burmese authorities that they now stand more alone than ever. It also sends an important message to the world: China can be moved.

The US ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, said that if the junta failed to meet the demands in the statement, the security council would take the matter up again in as little as two weeks.

– We will not relent. We will persist, he told the Guardian.

Let that also be my message to all of you who long for a free Burma: Keep up the good work! Keep up the pressure on China! We will not relent. We will persist.

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