March 2, 1995

The British Ambassador to Rangoon Mr J N D Hartland-Swann, backed by the Department of Trade and Industry, has arranged for a second British Week which is being held currently in Rangoon to encourage and facilitate trade and investment on the part of British Companies in Burma. Arranged to coincide with the 1995 Myanmar Trade Fair, the delegates will meet senior representatives of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) and attend commercial seminars aimed at encouraging investment in selected industries.

At a time when other Western Governments are publicly criticising the regime for its recent attack on the ethnic groups on the Thai Burma border and refugees in Thailand, the promotion of trade in Burma by the British Government is particularly unwelcome.

The Burma Action Group is particularly concerned that the holding of British Week will send signals of support to the Burmese Junta at a time when Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans calls for ‘No rewards [to] be given…by the international community’ and the United States has threatened ‘heightened isolation if progress is not forthcoming’.

The Burma Action Group calls on the British Government to urgently review the British Ambassador’s enthusiastic endorsement of trade with the Burmese junta, and to publicly demonstrate its condemnation of the junta’s involvement in the recent attacks.
Note to editors:

1 There have been a number of attacks and raids on refugees in Thailand by Burmese government troops and or their allies the Democratic Kayin Buddhist Army forces. On the 9th February 1995 a Karen National Union officer was abducted from Maela refugee camp and forced to return to Burma. In an incident on the 23 February 1995 refugees who were being transported to a safer camp further in Thailand were ambushed by Burmese forces; the Thai driver and two women were killed, and 11 others were seriously injured.

2 To date, trade by British companies in Burma stands at approximately £9 million. Very few British jobs are involved.

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