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China against Myanmar war crimes probe

world Updated: Oct 27, 2010 00:49 IST
Colum Lynch
Colum Lynch
Hindustan Times
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China has launched a high-octane diplomatic campaign during the past two months aimed at thwarting the Obama administration's plan to back an international probe into possible war crimes by Myanmar's military rulers.

The Chinese effort —which includes high-level lobbying of top UN officials and European and Asian governments — has taken the steam out of the US initiative, which was designed to raise the political costs to Myanmar's military junta for failing to open its November 7 elections to the country's political opposition.

A senior US official was pessimistic about the prospects for securing international support for a war crimes probe and made it clear that Washington had no immediate plans to introduce a proposal to establish one.

Myanmar is widely considered to have one of the most appalling human rights records in the world. The ruling junta has detained more than 2,100 political prisoners, many of whom have endured torture, inadequate medical care and even death. The military has also imposed abuses on ethnic minorities, including the forced relocation of villages, forced labour and systematic human rights abuses.

China, meanwhile, has forcefully urged European and Asian countries and the UN leadership to oppose the measure on the grounds that it could undermine Myanmar's fragile political transition, according to diplomats and human rights advocates.

Just days after the United States signaled support for the war crimes commission, China's UN ambassador, Li Baodong, paid a confidential visit to Ban's chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, to make his opposition clear: The US proposal, he said, was dangerous and counterproductive, and should not be allowed to proceed, three UN-based sources familiar with the exchange told The Post.

The US supports an appeal for a war crimes inquiry against senior officials, including Myanmar's top military ruler Than Shwe.

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