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Foreign Minister discusses Burma.



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MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS HON ALEXANDER DOWNER, MP

TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE

DATE: Thursday, 27 September 2007

TITLE: Interview - ABC with Jon Faine - Burma.

JOURNALIST: … Burmese capital is that there has been some violence. What’s been told to you at the United Nations?

MR DOWNER: Well we understand that three or possibly four people have been killed and a number have been injured. It’s clear now that the regime is starting something of a crackdown. They have a curfew in place from - I think from memory - 9pm to 6am.

JOURNALIST: Is this the beginning of the end for the military regime?

MR DOWNER: I don’t - I’d like to think it was - but I don’t think it necessarily will, no. I think that they will, using the army, be able to eventually crack down on the protest. They’ll certainly desperately try to do that but anyway, you can only hope and I think the important thing for all of the international community now is to get behind the protestors and try to encourage further reform in Burma. I’m very pleased that the Security Council of the United Nations is going to have at least some discussion about it - I mean don’t hold your breath, I don’t think they’re going to pass any resolutions of great note - but in any case,

they’re onto it and that’s very important in terms of, as I would put it, supporting the ordinary people of Burma.

JOURNALIST: Did you know this was brewing? George W Bush singled out Burma, of all countries, when he was in Sydney for APEC.

MR DOWNER: No we didn’t know that the uprising was brewing. I didn’t have any forewarning of that. It just seems that the monks in particular have led this and civilians in vast numbers have come out in support of them and support of their protest. That’s very difficult for the military because cracking down on monks is obviously only going to inflame public opinion of them more.

JOURNALIST: So what pressure can be brought to bear on China, as one of the major backers of the Burmese military regime?

MR DOWNER: Well I think you have to be careful how you do it but China certainly is, if any country - and I say if, because I’m not sure how much they can - but if any country can influence the leadership there it’s going to be China. The Western countries have had a

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strong position on Burma for a long time. The ASEAN countries have been surprisingly robust in their approach to this issue, bearing in mind Burma is a member of ASEAN. That hasn’t had any effect and I think more intervention from China diplomatically is likely, if anything is going to have an effect to push the leaders towards trying to institute very real

reform in that country.

JOURNALIST: Thank you for your time this morning Alexander Downer, Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, speaking to us from the United Nations in New York.

[Ends]