Asia Crisis

Singapore cautious about Myanmar sanctions

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Singapore on Friday questioned the impact of sanctions against Myanmar's ruling junta and warned they might damage future reconciliation talks but did not rule such action out.

Singapore's U.N. Ambassador Vanu Gopala Menon told a U.N. Security Council debate on Myanmar that if punitive measures were adopted "we have to pause to consider dispassionately what the real impact of additional sanctions will be."

"My delegation can understand the impulse to punish unacceptable behavior," Menon said. "Indeed we should not rule this out."

But Menon, whose country is current chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and a leading investor in Myanmar, questioned whether sanctions would affect the isolated regime and whether they would help or hinder the U.N. role and that of special envoy Ibrahim Gambari.

"All such actions should have only one objective, which is to strengthen Mr. Gambari's hand as an effective mediator," Menon said.

Menon also said it would be a "grievous mistake" to think that if the military government left the scene "all would suddenly be well and all problems would automatically be resolved."

He said the military "cannot be wished away" and any peaceful solution would have to involve them along with all other parties.

"If the military is not part of the solution, there will be no solution," Menon said. He warned of Iraq-style anarchy and said only a tenuous cease-fire among armed ethnic groups had prevented more hostilities.

"This should not be an excuse for delaying necessary steps forward," Menon said. "But neither do we want a Yugoslavia in Southeast Asia," he added, referring to the Balkan country's disintegration amid ethnic warfare in the 1990s.

He called on major Asian powers China, India and Japan to use their influence.

Although Myanmar is part of the 10-nation ASEAN group, Menon said the association's influence was limited.