May 27, 2010

The Burma Campaign UK today condemned as ‘pathetic’ and ‘irresponsible’ a joint statement on Burma issued by the EU and ASEAN on 26th May. The statement goes so far in misrepresenting reality that it effectively amounts to a defence of the dictatorship.

The statement bizarrely calls on the dictatorship to ‘continue to engage in meaningful manner with the international community, including ASEAN and the UN’. Both the EU and ASEAN are fully aware that the dictatorship has not been engaging in a meaningful manner with the international community, yet they use the word ‘continue’. Why are they issuing factually incorrect statements which present the dictatorship in more positive light?

·      For more than six months the EU has tried and failed to persuade the dictatorship to allow its Burma envoy to visit the country.

·      Dialogue with the USA has gone nowhere, resulting in a strong statement from US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell following his last visit.

·      UN envoys have consistently been refused entry into Burma.

·      When the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited the country he was not allowed to meet Aung San Suu Kyi.

·      The UN has also strongly condemned the regime for not allowing it to carry out monitoring relating to child soldiers in the country.

The statement also calls on the elections to be made free and fair, even though the EU and ASEAN are aware that this is impossible and that the dictatorship has no intention of making them so. Both the EU and ASEAN are also fully aware that the new constitution introduced after the election is designed to maintain dictatorship, making the question of whether elections are free and fair completely irrelevant.

It is irresponsible to repeat statements on the elections which they know are meaningless, rather than of focussing on initiatives which might bring about the dialogue and transition to democracy that they claim to want.

Both blocs are behaving like ostriches with their heads in the sand when it comes to the reality of what is happening in Burma. Facts and reality on the ground are ignored.

The statement does not even use the words ‘political prisoners’, instead referring to ‘those under detention’. Again this misrepresents the truth of the situation in Burma in a way which presents the dictatorship in a more favourable light.

No mention is made of continuing military attacks against ethnic minorities. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Burma has recently described these as so serious that they warrant a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“There was a time when the EU robustly engaged ASEAN to take a stronger and more principled stand on Burma,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “Now the EU rolls over like a puppy to have its tummy tickled by ASEAN. We have become used to statements being watered down by ASEAN, but it appears the EU no longer has a bottom line. ASEAN governments will be laughing and shaking their heads in disbelief at what they have got away with. It’s a day of shame for the EU.”

For more information contact Mark Farmaner on 020 7324 4710.

The EU-ASEAN Ministers Meeting was held in Madrid. The full statement is available here.

The two paragraphs on Burma follow:

10. The Ministers exchanged views on Myanmar. They took note of the political developments in the country including preparations for the general elections to be held this year, with the EU raising the issue of Aung San Suu Kyi. Both sides emphasized that the political and socio-economic challenges facing the country should be resolved through engaging all stakeholders in an inclusive political process leading to national reconciliation and to peaceful transition to civilian government. Therefore they called on the Government of Myanmar to make the forthcoming elections a credible, transparent, democratic and inclusive process. They believed that the early release of those under detention would contribute to making the elections more inclusive and help bring about a peaceful political transition. They also encouraged the Government of Myanmar to continue to engage in meaningful manner with the international community, including ASEAN and the UN.

11. The Ministers welcomed the intent of the EU to step up its dialogue with the authorities of the country and other key stakeholders by sending a delegation to Myanmar to explore the possibilities for developing its engagement. Both sides agreed to continue their dialogue including on how to step up assistance to the people of Myanmar in order to contribute to the urgently needed improvement of social and economic conditions. The Ministers affirmed their commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Myanmar. In that context, they reiterated that the future of Myanmar lies in the hands of all of its people.

 


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