Painting a grim picture of the ground reality inside Burma, the British and French heads-of-state have said a prosperous and peaceful Burma is only possible if a process of genuine dialogue is immediately undertaken.
Labeling the current state of Burmese politics as "poisoned," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have called on the junta to relax restraints on opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and to enter into a meaningful exchange aimed at reconciliation and reform.
"Cut off from the outside world and denied access not only to democracy and respect for human rights, but also to proper education and basic economic rights, its society is in a state of disarray," is how the authors describe Burma today.
"It is obvious now that the country is in a downward spiral of poverty and unrest," continues the bleak description and making reference to the protests of August and September.
Championing the employment of targeted sanctions, directed at the regime and its vested, largely economic, interests, Brown and Sarkozy argue that the best strategy for the European Union to pursue is one of carrots and sticks. However, they caution that the carrots should be withheld until there are definite and discernable steps taken by the regime along the road to dialogue and reform.
The two European leaders also encouraged ASEAN to continue and increase its interaction and pressure for change inside Burma. Only on the foundation of responsible politics can economic growth and prosperity follow, write Brown and Sarkozy, in a clear indication to ASEAN leaders that the region's true potential can only be realized with the advent of a democratic Burma.
The authors' views were expressed in an opinion piece published in the International Herald Tribune on Friday.