Outside editorial: A forgotten crisis in Myanmar

Posted: Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Was it only four months ago that the world was pledging to stand by the brave thousands who were marching peacefully for democracy in Myanmar? Was it so recently that the United Nations Security Council was proclaiming its readiness to promote reconciliation after those same thousands were swept off the streets and into prisons or unmarked graves?

As the U.N. effort sputtered to a complete stall last week, it was impossible not to wonder whether those brave pledges were anything but a summer dream. While the movement of Buddhist monks and hundreds of thousands of sympathizers held the world's attention, the odious regime in Myanmar, also known as Burma, a Southeast Asian nation of 50 million people, promised to engage in dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy leader living under house arrest and in near total isolation. It promised, too, to permit U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to send his special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, any time he wanted. But no dialogue has taken place, and the regime won't give Gambari a visa until April, if then.

In addition, more monks have been arrested. The death toll from the fall has yet to be made known. The regime raised the fee for satellite dish licenses so that its people will be further cut off from the world. And meanwhile, Gambari flies from Asian capital to Asian capital, hoping that someone will put in a good word for his visa.

There are options beyond pleading: arms embargoes, stricter banking sanctions aimed at the junta members and their relatives, and more. Whether they come into play depends on whether the secretary general and leaders of nations that claim to respect the United Nations object even a little to its humiliation by a band of Myanmarese bullies.

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