The U.S. press statement on September 24 calls on the Burmese government to exercise restraint and engage in dialogue with its people for transition to a civilian, democratic government. By the 26th, things had taken an ominous turn in Burma with the security forces firing on the demonstrators. The joint U.S.-EU press statement on that day adds threats of sanctions against the Burma/Myanmar government. (The EU, unlike the US or the equally decisive Japan (see below), cannot make up its collective mind on what to call the mafia state.) On the 27th, President Bush has even harsher words for the "brutal military regime" and calls on "all nations that have influence with the regime to join us in supporting the aspirations of the Burmese people and to tell the Burmese Junta to cease using force on its own people." On the same day, the U.S. Treasury broadens sanctions on certain Burmese individuals. The following day, the State Department follows suit with more visa restrictions. Mr. Bush's wife issues a statement similar to her husband, but somewhat longer and even more harshly worded. The White House Press Secretary also let's us know that EU is also considering sanctions. Meanwhile, in Japan…
The Japanese press statement on the 25th basically makes the same points with the Myanmar government as the 24 September State Department statement did, in the typically mild-mannered Japanese way. On the 26th, his views on sanctions on Myanmar is the first question put to new Foreign Minister Komura in his first regular press briefing. He sidesteps the issue, and repeats the call for restraint on the part of the Myanmar government and says that he will be watching the situation carefully. Senior Vice Minister Onodera gives a longer regular briefing saying essentially the same things. On the 27th, Japanese freelance cameraman Kenji Nagai is murdered, shot in the back pointblank, by a Myanmar government soldier. By the 28th, Mr. Komura is in New York for the US General Assembly Plenary, and holds a talk with his Myanmar counterpart. In a press briefing there - no official records; this is as unofficial as the burasagaris, which became a bone of contention between Prime Minister Abe and the media - he reveals that he reiterated Japanese calls for restraint and dialogue and told his counterpart that the Japanese government "strongly seeks the revelation of the truth" with regard to Mr. Nagai's shooting. He remains noncommittal on sanctions.
You can see the differences in words and deeds, small and large, and imagine the time and effort that the bureaucracies expended in putting them together. And more sanctions may still be on their way - who knows, from Japan? Yet these are of little to no significance to an authoritarian natural-resource state. It's always the same: stop the cash flow; or the security forces refuse to fire on civilians, which also will be a long time in coming, if ever.
A certain Ibrahim Gambali visited Naypyidaw on the 29th, no doubt to be told that all is in order, there's nothing to see, please keep moving. You know, he should - to Thailand, and, even more important, China. Don't bother going to India, India will stay away if China does; and Russia is only following the money. As for Japan, Mr. Gambali may come, if he wishes, to express his condolences.