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Burma’s leaders must cope with protests nonviolently: Asean chief

The demonstrations and protests going on in Burma are normal for a democracy, and Burma’s leaders must learn to deal with them in a non-confrontational manner, the head of Asean said on Thursday.

Asean chief Surin Pitsuwan  Photo: AseanSecretary-General Surin Pitsuwan of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) said it was critical for the authorities not to use force and violence to suppress the peaceful expression of citizens’ opinions.

Peaceful demonstrations over the lack of electricity have taken place in Rangoon, Mandalay and several other towns in Burma this week. After tolerating the protests for days, police broke up a crowd in the town of Pyi and several members of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party were detained for questioning and released in Mandalay on Thursday.

“If a country or society aspires to be open to democracy, it has to be prepared to deal with popular participation, pressure, demand, conflicts, tension, in some cases violence,” Surin was quoted as sahying by Reuters news group. “But a country or a government will need to deal with it.”

Burma’s military, which ruled for nearly 50 years following a 1962 coup, ruthlessly crushed public demonstrations in the past. The current demonstrations are seen as a real test of the government’s commitment to democratic reforms. Violent repression could cause a backlash from democratic counties that are reengaging with the current government and suspending or lifting economic sanctions.

Surin said Asean was ready to help Burma cope with pressures in case of shortages of necessities such as water, food, or transportation, drawing on many members’ experiences.

Supplying electricity to the 60-million population is just one of the challenges facing one of the poorest members of the 10-nation Asean bloc. It’s estimated that one in four of Burma’s citizens have access to electricity. Protest organizers have questioned Burma’s policy of selling electricity to China when its own citizens must often exist with only six hours of electricity a day and regular rolling blackouts.
Last Updated ( Friday, 25 May 2012 17:49 )  

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