By LALIT K JHA
The Irrawaddy News
WASHINGTON — US President George W Bush said on Thursday that neighboring countries do not favor economic sanctions against Burma, and this is one of the reasons US sanctions have not been as successful as he would have liked.
"There are some countries in the neighborhood that are not interested in joining," Bush told Suthichai Yoon of the National Media Group of Thailand in an interview, the transcript of which was released by the White House.
Bush said sanctions are not working more effectively because many neighboring countries do not apply them. Observing that unilateral sanctions are effective only to a certain extent, he urged other countries to join the US which has slapped the Burmese junta with a series of sanctions, the last round early this week.
Praising the Burmese democracy advocate, Aung San Suu Kyi, for her courage, Bush said: "Here is a very heroic woman that was elected overwhelmingly by her people and has now been under house arrest by a group of military guys that just simply won't allow the will of the people to flourish."
The US president, who will meet with several Burmese dissidents while in Bangkok, in another roundtable interview with foreign print media, acknowledged there is a difference of opinion within the Association of Southeast Asia Nations about how hard to push Burma to move toward democracy. "I'm at one end of the ledger,” he said. “And we'll continue to press hard."
On meeting with Burmese dissidents in Bangkok, Bush said: "My message is going to be one directed to the people in Burma when I meet with some of the activists, and Laura is going to be meeting with some of the people that she got to know."
Bush thanked the people of Thailand and its government for their humanitarian help to the people of Burma in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis.
"I think it's very constructive and very helpful,” he said. “And I will be speaking to activists to let them know that the United States of America hears their voices. You know, it's a tough issue for some countries.
"I do want to thank the Thai government for its understanding of the refugee issue, particularly as relates to the border policy,” he said. “I think it's been very wise and very humane."
Meanwhile, three leading Burmese dissident groups—the All Burma Monk's Alliance, the 88 Generation Students and the All Burma Federation of Student Union—urged UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to review the mission of the United Nations in Burma.
The statement said: "The United Nations is stepping back from its benchmarks, which is the realization of an all party-inclusive, democratic, participatory and transparent process of national reconciliation."
Instead of working toward these benchmarks, the UN has allowed the Burmese military regime to embark on a unilateral and brutal path, forcing democracy groups to live in a repressive, untenable position, it said.
"If the secretary-general openly and strongly asks the Security Council take action on Burma, we believe that China and Russia might change their position," the statement said.
The statement expressed disappointment with the role played by UN Special Envoy to Burma Ibrahim Gambari, who will visit Burma in August: "Instead of convincing the regime with a forceful voice and the strength of moral authority, it seems that he was convinced by the regime that there was no other way [but] to accept their unilateral actions."