Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Friday, 28 September 2007 16:34 UK

Where the world stands on Burma

As governments around the world consider how to respond to the protests in Burma, the BBC News website looks at the aims and influence of key Western and Asian players.


Relationship: The Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) has in the past appeared reluctant to condemn a fellow member but member-states appear increasingly uneasy. Asean foreign ministers meeting in New York urged the Burmese authorities to halt violence against the demonstrators.

Interests: Concern to preserve the unity of the regional bloc needs to be balanced against the desire for regional stability, and pressure from Western countries that wish to secure Asean support for action against the military regime in Rangoon.

Comment: "We hope that the Myanmar [Burmese] authorities and all other parties in Myanmar will appreciate the broader implications of their actions on the region as a whole and act accordingly." Singapore foreign ministry, current Asean chair


Relationship: A close trading and diplomatic relationship it is seen as the country with the strongest potential to influence events in Burma. It has blocked UN sanctions against Burma but recently called for "restraint" by "all" parties.

Interests: Burma's oil and gas reserves are important for a rapidly developing and energy-hungry China but, as a regional power, Beijing also has an interest in ensuring that events in Burma do not lead to regional instability.

Comment: "China hopes that all parties in Myanmar exercise restraint and properly handle the current issue so as to ensure the situation there does not escalate and get complicated, and does not influence the stability of Myanmar and the peace and stability of the region." Chinese foreign ministry


Relationship: While conscious of its lack of leverage over Burma, it is urging India, China and Asean to take a tougher line. Some sanctions are already in place. In 1996 the EU banned arms sales and expelled military attaches, and it froze the assets of individuals within the junta. It withdrew preferential trade status from Burma and subsequently cut off all non-humanitarian aid to the country. European Parliamentary deputies have called on the EU to work with the US and Asean to prepare measures against the Burmese government, including targeted sanctions.

Interests: Relatively few economic interests in Burma but France remains a major investor, with a joint gas project between the US firm Chevron and French Total.

Comment: "China is the puppet-master of Burma. The Olympics is the only real lever we have to make China act. The civilised world must seriously consider shunning China by using the Beijing Olympics to send the clear message that such abuses of human rights are not acceptable." Edward McMillan-Scott, vice-president of the European Parliament


Relationship: It has close economic and diplomatic ties with Burma. It has expressed concern over the current crisis but generally maintains a careful silence over the situation, describing it as an internal affair of Burma. Former Defence Minister George Fernandez has described India's current position as "disgusting".

Interests: India is concerned above all with protecting its oil interests in Burma, signing a new deep-water exploration deal in the same week that protests got under way. India also sells arms to the military regime in Rangoon. But as the world's most populous democracy, India is under pressure from the West and from activists at home to take a stronger stand in support of democratic forces in Burma.

Comment: "As a close and friendly neighbour, India hopes to see a peaceful, stable and prosperous Myanmar, where all sections of the people will be included in a broad-based process of national reconciliation and political reform." Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee


Relationship: While Russia is much less important than China as an ally and trading partner to Burma, Moscow has stood beside Beijing in opposing any attempts to bring foreign pressure to bear on the Burmese government.

Interests: Earlier this year Burma and Russia signed a deal that could lead to the construction of a Russian nuclear research reactor in Burma. Last year, Moscow offered fighter jets and air defence systems to Rangoon in exchange for access to Burmese oil. Russian commentators have suggested that a change of government in Rangoon would bring in an administration more susceptible to Western influence than the incumbents.

Comment: "We consider any attempts to use the latest developments to exercise outside pressure or interference in the domestic affairs of this sovereign state to be counterproductive. We still believe that the processes under way in Burma do not threaten international and regional peace and security." Russian foreign ministry


Relationship: The UK's status as the former colonial power does not give it any particular influence as economic links have declined and London - in common with other Western governments - has been vocal in its condemnation of the military government.

Interests: The UK once had major interests in petroleum in Burma but no longer has any large-scale investment in the country. British companies continue to do business in Burma, with hardwoods being an important import. Campaigners have complained that UK government policy on trade with Burma is vague and not enforced.

Comment: "I want to see all the pressures of the world put on this regime now - sanctions, the pressure of the UN, pressure from China and all the countries in the region, India, pressure from the whole of the world." UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown


Relationship: Washington has called for political change in Burma and expressed support for the recent protests. In 1997 the US banned new investment in Burma, and in 2003 it banned most Burmese imports and dollar transactions. It has announced it will impose further sanctions against 14 senior officials in Burma's government, including the country's acting prime minister and defence minister. But in common with the other Western countries, the US realises its influence is weak when compared to that of China, India and Asean.

Interests: As a result of sanctions few economic interests remain, a major exception being the US share in the Chevron-Total gas project.

Comment: "The world is watching the people of Burma take to the streets to demand their freedom and the American people stand in solidarity with these brave individuals." US President George W Bush

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