July 30, 2009

The Burma Campaign UK today called on governments and the United Nations to develop policy based on what is going on in the whole of Burma, not just on what happens to Aung San Suu Kyi. Aung San Suu Kyi has herself said that the international focus should not be on her alone.

The Burma Campaign UK is concerned by recent statements from world leaders and international organisations that focus solely on whether Aung San Suu Kyi is released or able to take part in elections next year. Aung San Suu Kyi has twice been released before, largely because of international pressure, but the human rights and political situation in Burma continued to deteriorate, as the regime only released her to try to head off international pressure.

At the same time, Than Shwe’s military regime used the instance of her period of freedom in 2003 to try to assassinate her in the Depayin massacre – she narrowly escaped being beaten to death and members of her party were killed by thugs of the regime.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has even suggested that a ban on new U.S. investment could be lifted if Aung San Suu Kyi were released. It is ridiculous that any Burma policy review is dependent on the outcome of the current trial. Even if Aung San Suu Kyi were released, there would still be war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by the dictatorship in Burma. Ethnic women and girls would still be being raped and killed, there would still be more than 2,100 political prisoners. There would still be no freedoms, no rule of law and no respect for human rights.

Statements issued by the EU and G8 among others, saying elections in 2010 will have no credibility unless all prisoners are released and/or Aung San Suu Kyi is able to take part, are also of concern, as they ignore the fact that the elections bring in a constitution which legalises dictatorship and grants no human rights. Under this constitution the generals will remain in power even if elections were free and fair, making the elections irrelevant.

The Burma Campaign UK welcomes the strong support that many world leaders have given to Aung San Suu Kyi, but her release alone would not necessarily indicate any change in policy from the dictatorship. If all political prisoners were released, as the UN Secretary General has asked, that would indicate the possibility of real change. This should be the very minimum benchmark, along with an end to vicious attacks on ethnic minorities.

The dictatorship ruling Burma is one of the worst violators of human rights in the world. They are committing crimes against humanity, and war crimes, attacking ethnic minorities, using rape, torture, extrajudicial killings, extortion, slave labour and child soldiers. There is no freedom of speech, no free media, no rule of law, no justice, and thousands of political prisoners face abuses including torture, and denial of medical care. International aid is blocked, resulting in thousands of deaths each year, and the wealth of the country is being stolen by a corrupt military and business elite. The international community needs to take all this into account when deciding Burma policy.

The Burma Campaign UK is concerned that if the dictatorship gives Aung San Suu Kyi anything less than the maximum 5 year in detention, governments will use this as an excuse to say the generals have been lenient, and not take the tough action needed to pressure the generals into genuine reform.

“We cannot have a situation where the generals get let off the hook because they returned Aung San Suu Kyi to house arrest instead of jail, or freed her, and at the same time teenage girls in Karen State are being gang-raped by Burmese Army soldiers,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK.

For more information contact Mark Farmaner on 020 7324 4710

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