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Experts Urge China, India to Exert Pressure on Burmese Government

Experts say a multi-lateral approach to the Burmese military government crackdown on pro-democracy activists in that country could bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis. But they stress that China and India, two countries with influence in Burma, also called Myanmar, must take a stronger stance. From Washington, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

The Bush administration has taken a strong position in condemning the violent crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Burma over the last few weeks. European nations and Japan have also added their voices, most recently supporting a U.N. Security Council Presidential Statement on Burma.

But the U.S. State Department's Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Scot Marciel says India must do more in line with its position as the world's largest democracy.

"India's welcome message is undercut by its actions, such as its announcement to invest over $100 million in a transportation development project in Western Burma," he said.

Speaking before a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday, Marciel welcomed China's efforts to help facilitate a meeting between the U.N. special envoy on Burma Ibrahim Gambari and the head of the Burmese military government, but said China must use its leverage with Burma's leaders to do more. "We believe China can and must do more, and we will continue to press Beijing to do so," he said.

Marciel says the U.S. would like to see China support an early return to Burma by the U.N. special envoy, as well as use its influence with the Burmese government to secure the release of political detainees.

Jeremy Woodrum of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, a human rights group, also criticized China, saying the current crisis has not been enough to push Beijing to real action.

"The regime has destroyed 3,000 villages in eastern Burma. And just to put that in the context of a crisis that is a little bit more well known, that's almost twice as many villages as have been destroyed in Darfur. The regime has forced 1.5 million [people] to flee their homes as refugees and as internally displaced people," he said.

China takes the position that the situation in Burma is an internal one and Beijing does not interfere in the internal politics of other countries. Woodrum takes issue with that. "Yet, the truth is that China interferes in Burma more than any other country in the world. Its unabashed support for Burma's military regime, against the desires of the Burmese people, has perpetuated a permanently destabilizing atmosphere in the country," he said.

The Chinese government has come under fire from human rights activists who have called for a boycott of next year's summer Olympic games in Beijing, saying China is not doing enough to stop the killing in Darfur, and now in Burma as well. Woodrum urged President Bush and members of Congress to carefully consider whether the U.S. should attend the Beijing games as a way to put further pressure on China to act.