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Rights Activists' Call for UN Action Against Burma Gets Attention

Global human rights leaders are garnering growing international support for its proposal for the U.N. Security Council to take action against the Burmese government.

A global coalition of human rights advocates, led by former Czech President Vaclav Havel and retired South African Bishop Desmond Tutu, is urging the U.N. Security Council to intervene to press Burma's military government to move to democracy.

Mr. Havel and Bishop Tutu released a report in September saying the human rights and political situation in Burma more than merited U.N. action.

The report showed that the situation in Burma is worse than seven other countries in which the Security Council had intervened, including Rwanda and Afghanistan.

U.S. attorney Jared Genser, one of the authors of the report, told journalists in Hong Kong this week it has support from elements in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and among Burma's opposition groups.

"The National League for Democracy and a number of ethnic groups, all the major ones, have endorsed our report; the ASEAN concourse, a little over 100 MPs [lawmakers] from different ASEAN countries has come and endorsed our report," Mr. Genser said.

The United States is also a strong supporter, and last week the European parliament passed a resolution calling for Burma to be put on the Security Council agenda.

Mr. Genser says eight of the 15 members of the Security Council are in favor of acting on Burma, but the proposal faces probable opposition from China and Russia - which hold veto power.

Mr. Genser notes that China has close military and economic ties to Burma, while Russia tends to oppose human-rights interventions, being sensitive to criticism of its bloody handling of separatist Chechnya.

He believes China remains the key in getting the Security Council to pass a resolution on Burma.

"Although China is privately threatening to veto any substantive matter on Burma, the reality is, they themselves know of the dangers coming from the junta next door, in terms of a massive outflow of drugs, particularly across their border, HIV/AIDS and other bad things," he said.

Burma's government has been accused of tolerating trafficking in heroin, methamphetamine, and people.

Mr. Genser and the coalition of activists say they do not expect to get a U.N. resolution soon, but will keep pressing the matter. And if they succeed, they acknowledge a resolution will not change the situation overnight.

The military has ruled Burma for more than 60 years, during which it has silenced all opposition. Burma's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who like President Havel and Bishop Tutu has won the Nobel Peace Prize, has spent most of the past 15 years under house arrest in Burma.