July 15, 2013

Media Release from Karen Community Association UK

Cameron Should Demand Thein Sein Withdraw Soldiers From Ethnic States

Human rights training for Burmese Army won’t work

The Karen Community Association UK (KCA UK) today calls on Prime Minister David Cameron to press President Thein Sein to withdraw his soldiers from ethnic states to demonstrate he is genuine about wanting peace and improving human rights.

Despite a ceasefire agreement being reached between Thein Sein Government and the Karen National Union (KNU) in January 2012, human rights violations including force labour, arbitrary arrest, detention and land confiscation continue in Karen State. In addition to this, despite the ceasefire, Thein Sein is increasing, not decreasing the number of soldiers in Karen State.

“We know from our experience that we cannot trust the Burmese Army”, said Htoo Ku Hsa Say, Chairperson of KCA UK. “As long as they are in our land, our people will not feel safe. Therefore, we call on the British Government to ask President Thein Sein to order his troops to remove from our home land, so that trust can be built and those who have lived in fear for decades can start to rebuild their lives without being overlooked by those they feared.”

The British government says it wants to help the peace process in Burma. The best way to ensure peace and human rights in Karen State and other ethnic states is for the Burmese Army to withdraw.
If President Thein Sein is genuine about reform in Burma, he must agree to remove his soldiers from Karen State, declare a nationwide ceasefire and start political dialogue with the Burma ethnic alliance, United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) as soon as possible.

“As someone who has had to run for my life from the Burmese Army, I can tell Cameron he is wrong to think a few sessions in a classroom stop the Burmese Army committing abuses,” said Htoo Ku Hsa Say. “Human rights abuses are not committed by a few rogue soldiers, they are government policy.”

We believe it is right to engage with the Burmese Government as long as the engagement is to promote further reform. However, it is too soon to welcome President Thein Sein as a genuine reformer, a leader of a free nation and trade partner.

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