As world attention continues to focus on the recent protests and crackdown in Burma, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter says he is closely watching events in the region. In an interview with VOA's Kane Farabaugh, President Carter criticized the international community for not putting more pressure on Burma's military government in the past, and he called for more action now to bring about democratic change.
Burma has been at the forefront of President Jimmy Carter's worldwide human rights agenda since he left the White House in 1981. "When we first organized the Carter Center, we raised hell about what the military junta were doing in Myanmar, which we called Burma," he said.
President Carter is a vocal critic of the military government's detention of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. In the past, the regime was so concerned with his condemnation that it sent a five-person delegation to meet with him.
"They promised me that she would just be put in house arrest, and that if she would cooperate they would release her," he recalled. "That all proved to be idle promises."
In May, President Carter joined 59 other world leaders in signing a letter demanding an end to Aung San Suu Kyi's confinement. She has spent 12 of the last 18 years in detention. The military government has appointed a liaison to meet with the Nobel laureate on the condition she end her support for international sanctions on Burma. But Burma's main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, says the government must drop any pre-conditions.
Mr. Carter says Burma's neighbors with economic ties to the country need to do more to secure Aung San Suu Kyi's release, and to pave the way for democratic change.
"If the world pressure can be brought on India and China to condemn what's going on in a very forceful but maybe subterranean and quiet way, that's the only avenue I see in the near future to bring about a change," he said.
The United States says it will introduce a U.N. resolution calling for sanctions if Burma does not move toward a democratic transition.
China says that pressure and sanctions by the international community will not help the situation. Yet that is exactly what Burma's critics are demanding in order to force change on the tightly controlled country.