U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has called on Burma's neighbors to insist that the military government in Rangoon release detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
In a signed article appearing in the Wall Street Journal (Thursday), Mr. Powell said it is time to show the Burmese military it will no longer be allowed to suppress democracy. He called on Southeast Asian countries to join the United States in imposing sanctions on Burma.
The U.S. secretary of state called Burma's military rulers "thugs," and he accused them of rejecting efforts to bring the country back into the international community. He promised to raise the matter at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations next week in Cambodia.
Traditionally, most of Burma's neighbors have been reluctant to confront Rangoon over human rights. Only Thailand has made a point of calling on the Burmese military to move toward political reconciliation with the opposition.
China indicated Thursday that it considers the issue a Burmese internal affair. And Malaysia said other countries should stay out of Burma's political disputes.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation tightening sanctions against Burma. That bill now goes to the House of Representatives.
The legislation would ban all imports from Burma, in response to the latest crackdown on the country's pro-democracy movement. It also would freeze Burma's assets in U.S. banks and require the Bush administration to oppose international loans to the country.
A ban on new U.S. investments in Burma has been in place since 1996.
Aung San Suu Kyi has been under detention in Burma for two weeks. Authorities detained her after a clash between her supporters and pro-government demonstrators in northern Burma May 30th.