May 20, 2008

The Burma Campaign UK today warned that the international community is falling for the same old lies and delaying tactics that the Burmese military dictatorship invariably uses to avoid political pressure regarding its human rights record.

ASEAN ministers meeting on Monday agreed a limited UN coordinated aid deal with Burma. But the deal doesn’t allow in foreign experts from the west who have experience in dealing with crises on this scale, and doesn’t allow in foreign military with the capacity and logistical experience to deliver aid in the hard to reach delta region.

Whenever the Burmese regime is under pressure it takes small steps designed to head off international action, but not enough to solve the problem. After the September 2007 uprising the regime promised talks with Aung San Suu Kyi, to stop arresting activists, and to work with the UN on a process of reconciliation. All these promises were broken, but the announcements were enough to delay international action until the world’s attention moved elsewhere.

“Time and again the regime makes small concessions which it calculates will be just enough to take the pressure off, and time and again the international community falls for it,” said Zoya Phan, International Coordinator of Burma Campaign UK. “Even if fully implemented the ASEAN deal won’t be enough to deal with the scale of this crisis, and we can be 100 percent certain it won’t be fully implemented. This a delaying tactic that will cost lives, and the international community should know better than to keep falling for the same trick.”

The Burma Campaign UK also expressed concerns that aid channelled through ASEAN would be stolen by the regime. The Burma Campaign UK has already received reports that some aid donated by Asian countries has been stolen and sold to businessmen or given to soldiers instead of cyclone victims.

“It is unacceptable for any UK government aid given to the UN or ASEAN countries to be channelled through the regime,” said Zoya Phan. “It won’t all get to those in need.”

The Burma Campaign UK is calling for aid to be delivered unilaterally by governments with the capacity to do so. The UK, USA and France all have Navy ships carrying aid and capable of delivering direct assistance to cyclone victims.

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