10/12/2007, 00.00
MYANMAR – CHINA
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For China things in Myanmar are getting “better” but monks continue to report cases of torture

To get Beijing’s approval, the Security Council has a presidential statement issued which deplores but does not condemn the actions by Myanmar’s generals. China wishes “good luck” to the people of Burma, which is still shedding blood in the country’s prisons. Prisoners who have been released talk about torture and mistreatment.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – “We believe that the situation there [in Myanmar] is relaxing and turning in a positive direction," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao following yesterday’s unanimous statement by the United Nations Security Council strongly deploring the repression against pro-democracy protests in the former Burma. From the Buddhist country though, news are of ongoing torture and arrest of demonstrators, student activists and ordinary people.

United Nations statement

In order to overcome China’s reticence with regard to a proposal by the United States, the United Kingdom and France to condemn the violence exerted by the Burmese junta, a non-binding Presidential Statement was issued instead. Still it is the first time that the Security Council has officially taken a stance against Myanmar. Beijing had previously used its veto power to prevent any criticism of the country’s rulers.

The 15-member council called for the quick release of all political prisoners and other detainees as well as a genuine dialogue with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (but not her liberation). Ms Suu Kyi is currently under house arrest.

China does not change

Some diplomatic sources speak of a significant shift in China’s UN policy, but Beijing’s official statements after the Presidential Statement do not bear that out.

“We wish Myanmar people good luck,” said Liu Zhenmin, China’s Deputy Permanent Representative. “It is up to the people of Myanmar to help resolve this issue.”

Mr Liu added that his government backed the government and people of Myanmar as well as Ibrahim Gambari, the UN envoy who starts off at the end of the week on a tour of the region (Thailand, Malaysia, India, China and Japan), last stop in Myanmar.

However, the “people of Burma” do not really have a say in the matter unless they are willing to take risks to life and limb.

Citing anonymous sources, The Irrawaddy reports that torture and abuse of members of the 88 Generation Students and other detainees continue. Many of those arrested are now being tortured in Yangon’s infamous Insein Interrogation Centre. Some have been tortured to death and others have been hospitalised in serious condition.

Hundreds of Buddhist monks detained during their peaceful marches since September have fared no better.

U Sandar Vaya, a 33-year-old monk, was jailed with 500 monks and about 200 civilians in the Government Technology Institute (GTI) in Insein. After he was released he said that “due to the lack of food and the extreme highs and lows of temperature, some monks and laypeople felt like they were suffocating. [. . .] The conditions were terrible.”

An another monk said that he saw people die near him from lack of everything and that bodies were left on the ground for hours.

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