April 5, 2004

As European and Asian foreign ministers meet next week to discuss Burma’s entry into the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM), a new report exposes ongoing repression of Burma’s democrats.
Click here to read the report

Since its announcement of a ‘roadmap’ to democracy in August 2003, Burma’s ruling military has been engaged in a nationwide crackdown on Burma’s democrats. A new report by Alternative Asean Network on Burma (Altsean) reveals that the crackdown includes: the sentencing to death of journalists, the shooting of political prisoners and the arrest, imprisonment and torture of pro-democracy activists.

The crackdown was launched on May 30th when the motorcade of Burma’s pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was attacked by the regime’s militia. It is thought that around one hundred of Suu Kyi’s supporters were killed or injured in the attack. The junta responded to international criticism over the massacre by announcing a roadmap for political reform. However, the catalogue of abuses detailed in Altsean’s report suggests that the situation on the ground belies any genuine effort by the regime towards its stated aim of national reconciliation.

The reports findings include:

  • At least four deaths in custody, including the shooting of hunger strikers in Bassein prison.


  • Nine people sentenced to death, including journalists.


  • Eleven extra-judicial killings. In one case three men were burned alive.


  • Forced relocation and/or the destruction of homes affecting over forty villages.


  • Over one hundred Buddhist monks arrested, some disrobed and beaten.


  • All National League for Democracy (NLD) offices closed, including party headquarters.


  • NLD leadership, including Aung San Suu Kyi, detained.


The report also estimates that a total of 265 people were arrested, killed or disappeared during and after the May 30th attack on Suu Kyi’s convoy. A leaked document from the militia that carried out the attack, the Union Solidarity Development Association (USDA), provides chilling evidence of the regime’s strategy to ‘annihilate’ the National League for Democracy.

An aim of one of the 10 main points listed in the USDA document is “eradicating all opposition activities”. It details a strategy of “Annihilation through greater strength” and talks about dealing with pro-democracy activists through “head-on confrontation”.  The regime’s chief, Senior General Than Shwe, is also the head of the USDA.

The findings of the Altsean report corroborate conclusions by Amnesty International and the UN Special Rapporteur on Burma that the human rights situation in the country has deteriorated significantly over the past year.

“This report shows that while the regime speaks the soft words of reconciliation and democracy at international conferences, back home its catalogue of abuse and repression is as ferocious as ever”, says John Jackson, Director of the Burma Campaign UK.

The report is released just before European and Asian foreign ministers meet to discuss Burma’s membership of ASEM next week in Dublin. ASEM is a biennial summit between state leaders from the two regions. Europe until now has refused Burma entry because of the country’s human rights record. Asia is now insisting that unless Burma is accepted, the ten countries joining the European Union on May 1st will also be refused membership of ASEM.

There is growing fear that the release of Aung San Suu Kyi will be used by the EU as an excuse to admit Burma even though her release does not signify an improvement in the humans rights situation nor a concrete move towards reform.

“If Aung San Suu Kyi is released, Burma would be in no better position now than it was a year ago, when the country’s membership of ASEM was still wholly unacceptable. If Europe uses her release as an excuse to admit Burma to ASEM, it will be a major boost to the dictatorship and a major blow to Burma’s democrats” Jackson added.


1. For further information or a copy of the Altsean report “Burma: A Road Map Paved with Oppression – Human Rights in Burma, 1 September 2003 to 31 January 2004” please contact John Jackson on 020 7324 4712 or Yvette Mahon on 020 7324 4714.
2. The ASEM preparatory meeting of European and Asian foreign ministers takes place in Kildare, Ireland on 17 and 18 April. The ASEM Summit will take place in Hanoi, Vietnam, in October.
3. For the EU’s relations with Burma, seehttp://europa.eu.int/comm/external_relations/myanmar/intro/


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