July 12, 2004

The Burma Campaign UK today accused governments and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan of ignoring the crisis in Burma and using his special envoy as a fig-leaf to cover the UN’s failure.

In a strongly worded letter to Kofi Annan, Burma Campaign UK Director John Jackson compares Mr T. S. Razali to “a lone first world war soldier, pushed over the trench to be shot down by the generals every time, while the UN and foreign ministers of Asia and Europe dine on the valiant effort he’s making.”

After four years, a dozen visits to Burma, maybe as many refused entries to the country, thousands of miles covered in international lobby efforts – Razali has been unable to persuade the junta to negotiate a programme of reform. His mediation has failed to achieve the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, a substantive dialogue between her and the regime, any serious reduction in the number of political prisoners, or any hint at democratic reform within that country. The regime told Mr Razali that it would do all of these things – it has now reneged on every single one.

“There is no doubt that the job is a poisoned chalice and I genuinely believe Mr Razali has tried his best,” says John Jackson. “But we have to take a hard look at what’s been achieved, and simply put his pleas and efforts have been categorically rejected by the regime. His role remains useful, however, to governments who hide behind his mandate and refrain from taking any serious action themselves.”

Kofi Annan has failed to respond to a recent call from the National League for Democracy. U Lwin, the NLD Secretary has said: “The ball is now in the court of the U.N. We’ll have to see what (Secretary General) Kofi Annan will do.” He added that it was now time for the UN to implement its resolutions rather than continue to have them ignored by the regime.

There have been glimpses of Mr Razali’s frustration over the lethargy that Asian and other governments have shown towards Burma. He has, over the last year, said publicly that governments should do more. He has also said that the generals in Rangoon would sit up and listen if the UN Security Council took action. Though he uses diplomatic language he is basically saying that the UN and the international community are failing the people of Burma.

John Jackson’s letter goes on to ask: “Given that the current strategy has failed, what new strategy is being considered?”

“Just as the ANC during Apartheid called on the world community to impose economic sanctions against South Africa, so too has the NLD with regard to Burma. The NLD, which won 82% of the seats in the 1990 election, must not be ignored by the UN simply because Burma’s regional neighbours choose to ignore the plight of her people. If the front line states during Apartheid had ignored the ANC and the plight of the black population in South Africa, the ANC’s call for sanctions would have been no less legitimate or powerful. I believe the case to be the same for Burma. There seems to be a tragic logic that if the people of Burma are both oppressed by their rulers and abandoned by neighbouring governments, they receive less support from the United Nations.”

“The Bangkok process is dead”, says Jackson, “Burma’s road map to democracy is at a dead end, Asian and European foreign ministers mutter disappointment and do absolutely nothing of substance, and poor Mr Razali climbs out of the trench once moreŔ

For more information contact John Jackson, Director of the Burma Campaign UK, on 020 7324 4712.

 


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