The World from Berlin Burmese Blood on China's Hands

The situation in Burma continued to deteriorate on Thursday with Burmese troops shooting into crowds of demonstrators. Commentators agree that only China has enough influence to put a stop to the violence.

The situation in Burma seems to be getting more serious by the day. Violence on Thursday continued to escalate with government security forces firing on protesters in Yangon. There are reports that a number of people have been killed, including a Japanese journalist.

Meanwhile, the international community is continuing to call for restraint with China on Thursday finally breaking its silence and urging all parties to exercise self-control. China is Burma's closest large ally and has close economic relations with the military dictatorship.

But for many observers, China's comments have come too late. Both the US and the European Union are boosting sanctions against the Burmese military junta, but China is unlikely to support similar measures at the United Nations.

German commentators are concerned about the developments in Burma and agree that China is the only international actor that can put a stop to the violence.

More blood has been spilled during demonstrations in Burma on Thursday.

More blood has been spilled during demonstrations in Burma on Thursday.

Economic daily Handelsblatt is defeatist on Thursday:

"The vague hope is misleading: The military junta that has ruled Myanmar for four decades has learned nothing out of the 1988 massacre (eds: the result of a crackdown on pro-democracy protests)…. For years now, the dictatorship has presented 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi with the choice of rotting in prison or sitting silently at home under house arrest -- and there have been few negative consequences. Why should they now demur in the face of the current protest led by the monks?"

"The international protest, as loud as it might end up being, will all-too quickly die away -- that is the lesson of experience. And the economic sanctions that were imposed 10 years ago have so far not succeeded in improving the human rights situation one iota."

Left-leaning daily Die Tageszeitung demands that the international community take action:

"History seems to be repeating itself: In 1988, the protests began small before quickly expanding. Back then, the demonstrations ended in a bloodbath with thousands killed and thousands more ending up in prison or in exile. With its violent deployment against monks and civilians on Wednesday, the regime showed once more that it is immune to international calls for restraint…."

"It is time for the UN Security Council to send a delegation … to negotiate. China needs to play a special role as the Burmese regime's closest and most influential ally. In addition, the Southeast Asian alliance ASEAN, which has so far remained mostly silent in the face of the recent events, has to take a position and risk putting the ASEAN-Burma partnership on ice."

"Still, the situation is a difficult one because the military leadership would never admit to giving in to outside pressure. Still, a quick and decisive intervention by the international community is necessary. The world cannot tolerate such military violence against the people of Burma."

The Financial Times Deutschland points its finger directly at China:

"The West can do little to help the oppressed citizens of Burma. The UN Security Council discussed the issue and diplomatic notes have made the rounds. But the democratic states simply have nothing with which to exert direct pressure on the regime."

"Beijing is the correct partner for Western diplomats should they seek to improve the situation in Myanmar. China, the biggest dictatorship in Asia, covers the back of its small neighbor Myanmar and thus earns for itself economic advantages, such as natural gas but also access to the Indian Ocean…. Beijing has enough power to influence the despots in the region. That wouldn't, of course, bring democracy to Myanmar, but it would mitigate the suffering of the Burmese population."

Conservative daily Die Welt is optimistic despite the violence on Wednesday:

"The courage of the monks -- the result of desperation over the lack of freedom in the country, the poverty and the isolation -- has introduced the seeds of civil disobedience to the Burmese population. By operating behind the protective shield of religion's moral authority, the people had the courage to rise up against the hated military junta. This important psychological process is irreversible."

Finally, the center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is under no illusions about how much the international community might be able to do:

"The international outrage over the military junta in Burma is almost unanimous. It is good that the United Nations wants to address the situation as quickly as possible. But we should be under no illusions. Even if the United States and the European Union impose new sanctions, even if Burma's neighbors finally abandon their reserve, the disgust emanating from President Bush, Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minster Brown is the result of powerlessness. Other than symbolic gestures, they don't have much to offer the opposition in Burma."

"For this reason, it is time for the international community to finally point the finger in the only correct direction: toward Beijing…. Should the Burmese generals end the protests with a bloody finale, they will do so with the silent approval of the Chinese government."

-- Charles Hawley, 12:15 p.m. CET


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