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Action On Burma

Burma's military rulers have forced the International Committee of the Red Cross to close its five field offices in the country. The Red Cross has been in Burma since 1986, providing food, water and sanitation to Burmese ethnic minorities living in rural areas.

Carla Haddad, a Red Cross spokeswoman, says the organization has tried "to re-establish meaningful dialogue with the government. . . .to no avail":

"The last meeting took place on 17 November in Geneva, but until now and since this meeting there is no sign of the deadlock breaking."

Ibrahim Gambari, the United Nations Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, says that Burma is facing "increased impoverishment," with thirty percent of the population living well below the poverty line and malnutrition striking more than thirty percent of children under the age of five.

John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., says the United States will be presenting a draft resolution on Burma to the U.N. Security Council. Mr. Bolton says, "The process the [Burmese] government has been pursuing continues to contribute to instability in the region and, therefore, in our view constitutes a threat to international peace and security." He says that this threat includes "a continuing flow of internally displaced persons and refugees across Burma's international borders – over a million Burmese citizens are now in other countries. Given the pervasive lack of economic development in Burma," says Mr. Bolton, "this is a problem that imposes considerable burdens on the bordering countries."

Mr. Bolton also says that the Burmese government has failed to effectively curb trafficking in narcotics and illicit drugs and trafficking in persons. The military rulers' underinvestment in public health contributes to the spread of highly contagious diseases such as H-I-V/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria across international borders.

President George W. Bush says, "The people of Burma live in the darkness of tyranny – but the light of freedom shines in their hearts. They want their liberty – and one day, they will have it."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.