June 11, 2009

The Burma Campaign UK today warmly welcomed a statement by the Presidency of the European Union condemning a Burmese Army offensive against civilians in Karen State, Burma. It is the first time the European Union has made a statement specifically about the crisis in Eastern Burma.

The dictatorship and its allies began a new offensive at the start of June which has forced more than 4,000 people to flee their homes. Up to 200 people have been used as forced labour carry military equipment for the Burmese Army and their allies, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army.

Karen, Karenni and Shan States in Eastern Burma suffer from one of the worst human rights and humanitarian crisis in the country. More than 3,300 villages have been destroyed in the past 15 years. The United Nations has accused the dictatorship of breaking the Geneva Conventions by deliberately targeting civilians.

“It is very welcome that the European Union has spoken out about these new attacks against the Karen people, and demanded an immediate ceasefire,” said Zoya Phan, a Karen refugee who is International Co-ordinator of Burma Campaign UK. “For too long the international community has ignored what is going on in Eastern Burma. If the dictatorship does not implement a ceasefire, we need to see the EU apply practical pressure, including building support for a global arms embargo against Burma, and supporting a commission of inquiry into these human rights abuses.”

For more information contact Zoya Phan on 020 7324 4710

Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union on the Karen civilians fleeing Burma/Myanmar.

The EU has noted with serious concern the mounting offensive of the Burmese Army and its allies against the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), which has resulted in large numbers of civilians fleeing from the conflict area in Kayin/Karen State to Thailand.

The EU calls for an immediate ceasefire and requests the authorities and military operators to ensure the protection of civilians at all times and to comply with international humanitarian and human rights law. Generally, the authorities should refrain from seeking military solutions against the ethnic minorities; this only fosters instability, long-term divisions and hatred.

The EU reiterates its commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Burma/Myanmar.

The EU calls instead for the conditions to be created that allow the return of all refugees, and for the start of an inclusive and time-bound process of political dialogue leading to national reconciliation.

The EU is strongly concerned about the humanitarian situation of the thousands of newly displaced persons in Thailand. It acknowledges the efforts that the Royal Government of Thailand, which already hosts large numbers of Burmese refugees, undertakes to provide the new arrivals with all necessary care. The EU stands ready to provide more assistance where possible.

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