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United Nations Security Council Reprimands Burma


The United Nations Security Council has released its first formal statement on Burma, criticizing the military government's violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. Chad Bouchard reports from Bangkok.

The Security Council's statement calls for Burma to hold talks with pro-democracy opposition leaders and for the government to hasten the release of political prisoners. The statement also says the U.N. Security Council "strongly deplores" the military's violent response to peaceful demonstrations.

The United States, Britain and France proposed tougher wording in the document, but China and Russia successfully argued to soften the language.

In September, thousands of Buddhist monks and lay people in Burma took to the streets for peaceful marches. Security forces fired tear gas and bullets into crowds, killing at least 13 people and detaining more than 2,000 demonstrators.

The Security Council statement is the 15-member body's first formal action on Burma.

An outspoken critic of Burma's government and former Burmese ambassador to China, Thakin Chan Tun, said that the council's statement has encouraged pro-democracy supporters. He says he welcomes the U.N. Security Council's statement. He calls it an important step, because Russia and China approved it, though they have vetoed U.N. actions against Burma in the past.

But, he says he hopes the Security Council will take stronger action in the future if the Burmese government does not respond. Thakin Chan Tun says if the Council issues a specific timetable, and Burma fails to comply, there is a chance China might agree to tougher action in the future.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says his special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, will return to Southeast Asia next week to discuss Burma's situation. He is preparing to return to Rangoon after meeting with diplomats in the region.

Amnesty International says the council's statement is welcome, but it says the document should have more strongly condemned Burma's military government, and called for the immediate and unconditional release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

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