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Burma interview with the BBC Burmese Service

Friday, October 26, 2007

The following is a transcript of an interview (answers only) given by Foreign Office Minister Meg Munn to the BBC Burmese Service in London on Thursday 25 October 2007.


What the British Prime Minister is setting out is that we want there to be a solution in Burma which offers real hope to the people, but is also being clear to the Burmese regime that we do see the military people as being part of the solution to this.  We want a discussion where everybody gets involved, a dialogue with everybody there which can then lead to a more democratic situation in Burma. 


We recognise that one of the real problems that Burma has is that the economic situation there is pretty dreadful.  There are all sorts of problems for people and obviously at the moment there is a lot of humanitarian aid going in.  But it doesn’t need to be like that.  Burma has the potential to be a really go-ahead, vibrant, economically successful country but we know that between the process where we are now and getting to that state there would need to be help and support.  So what the Prime Minister is doing is talking to other people who are in a position to look at the kind of help that Burma will need and say to the regime we are there to help. 


We are not just saying get on with it and the rest of the world doesn’t like what you are doing.  We are actually saying if you take those steps those steps which the world has a right to expect to stop the abuses of human rights, to stop repressing the population, to have a dialogue about a more democratic future, then the international community will put money and resources behind that to help Burma improve its economic situation. 


What we need to see happening is a positive response to the UN Special Envoy, Professor Ibrahim Gambari.  We want to see Professor Gambari go back into Burma very soon.  I know he would like to go very soon, for him to have a visa so that he can get in there so that he can talk to Aung San Su Kyi. We are today marking 12 years since her arrest, so that he can get to see her so that they can then start a process and set out some steps to have talks to free up the protestors who have been arrested and who are being held in some dreadful conditions. It is really in the hands of the Burmese regime to start that process as soon as possible and to set out how they are going to move towards a more democratic situation.


The countries in the region, those who are part of ASEAN the Association of South-East Asian nations are of course enormously important in this process. They have expressed their revulsion at what happened, have spoken out against the Burmese regime turning their guns on their population and they have made that clear. I went to Singapore earlier this week and met the Foreign Minister there, and he was very clear that Burma is going to be on the agenda of the Summit which is due at the end of November and the countries will be discussing what should happen. 


Now of course everybody wants this to proceed in a way which means that we can begin to resolve the situation. The international community will continue to put the pressure on there and it is a combination of saying to Burma, if you don’t move forward, if you don’t stop the repression, then sanctions will remain in place.  The European Union has strengthened its sanctions.  Measures that have focussed upon harming the regime and the economic position of the regime, not the economic well-being of individual people and that process has happened. Those sanctions will be there if the regime does not co-operate.  But if the regime wants to move forward and start to have that dialogue which can move us towards building a successful and more democratic Burma, then support and help can be there. So it is a process of both saying that there are sanctions, the international community is expressing its concern, expressing its revulsion, but there is a way forward.

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