UN demands Myanmar reforms

Security council threatens action unless government releases political prisoners.

    Khalilzad: Myanmar is "misguided" if it thinks it can buy time with Gambari's visit [AP]

    The UN has for the past three months focused on helping the South-East Asian nation recover from Cyclone Nargis which left nearly 140,000 people dead or missing.

    But on Thursday several members of the UN Security Council warned Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, that it could face increased pressure if it did not move to release political prisoners.

    They urged the military government to co-operate with Ibrahim Gambari, the UN special envoy to the country, to come up with a plan to release the prisoners.

    Khalilzad said Myanmar was "misguided" if it thought it could buy time by allowing Gambari's visit.

    "If there is not progress on these issues ... we would have to look at other measures, bringing more pressure to bear on the regime," he said without elaborating on the measures.

    "Absent political progress, we see the potential for increased political instability and the council cannot remain indifferent to that," he said.

    He said the council expected Myanmar's ruling generals to take advantage of Gambari's visit in mid-August to show progress.

    Gambari last visited Myanmar in March to try to bring about reconciliation between the military government and its pro-democracy opponents.

    On Wednesday, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, called for strong co-operation from Myanmar after convening a meeting of the so-called Group of Friends to discuss Gambari's upcoming visit.

    Sanctions renewed

    Rights groups say Myanmar gems enter the US via third-party countries
    Meanwhile in Washington, the US congress voted to renew a law that bans all imports from Myanmar, legislators said.

    The Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act passed on Thursday renews a series of sanctions imposed since 2003 over the suppression of Myanmar's democracy movement.

    The law maintains sanctions on the ruling generals until changes are made including steps towards reconciliation and democratisation, an end to attacks on ethnic minorities and the release of all "prisoners of conscience".

    Earlier this week the US congress cleared another legislation aimed at keeping Myanmar's gems, including jade and rubies, from entering US markets via third-party countries.

    Rights groups say that despite the long-standing ban on all imports, gems from Myanmar have been entering the US via Thailand, China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Explore how your country voted on global issues since 1946, as the world gears up for the 74th UN General Assembly.

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.