Myanmar rulers lash out at West, foreign media for stoking protests


YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar’s ruling military angrily accused Western powers and foreign media Thursday of inciting recent protests that were crushed by soldiers, and China urged the world to back U.N. mediation efforts to reconcile the junta and the pro democracy movement.

The state-owned New Light of Myanmar newspaper dismissed the protesters, who are still being hunted down in raids across the impoverished country, as “stooges of foreign countries putting on a play written by their foreign masters.”

The paper signaled out “big powers” and radio stations — the British Broadcasting Corp., Voice of America and Radio Free Asia — as behind the demonstrations, which were violently put down Sept. 26-27 in clashes condemned by nations around the world.

The United States and other countries have pressed for wide international sanctions against Myanmar, formerly Burma, to pressure the junta to allow democratic reforms, but China on Thursday said only a more conciliatory approach would work.

“We believe that the situation there is relaxing and turning in a positive direction,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said. “The international community should help in a constructive way to help Myanmar to realize stability, reconciliation, democracy and development.”

The ruling council’s top leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, has offered to meet detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on condition she reject calls for sanctions, and her party — the National League for Democracy — also has called for dialogue. The official press has made no mention of such talks, however, stressing instead that the regime was bent on following its own timetable to a so-called “roadmap to democracy,” which includes a draft constitution and referendum to be followed by elections at an unspecified date. Critics describe such a scenario as a sham to hoodwink world opinion and silence domestic opposition.

A series of groups have come out in recent days calling for moves against the regime.

Human Rights Watch, for instance, urged the U.N. Security Council to impose and enforce an arms embargo on the country. India, China, Russia, and other nations are supplying Myanmar with weapons that the military uses to commit human rights abuses and to bolster its power, the group said.

“It’s time for the Security Council to end all sales and transfers of arms to a government that uses repression and fear to hang onto power,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement issued Wednesday in New York.

Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that a delegation of the Myanmar air forces headed by Lieut. Gen. Myint Hlaing, chief of the air defense service, had arrived in Russia, one of Myanmar’s main arms suppliers.

The report, which did not say when the delegation arrived, quoted Russian Air Force spokesman Col. Alexander Drobyshevsky as saying that the Myanmar representatives would meet with the Russian Air Forces Command, other high-ranking military and defense industry officials, and visit air and space defense and research centers.