February 1, 2005

Over 70 celebrities and politicians are backing a new public awareness campaign asking people not to holiday in Burma because of human rights concerns. The new campaign “I’m Not Going”, is being launched on Tuesday 1st February 2005.

“The best role in the world wouldn’t get me to Burma,” said Anna Friel, one of the celebrities backing the campaign.

Prime Minister Tony Blair, Conservative leader Michael Howard, and Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy are also pledging to boycott holidays in Burma, ruled by one of the most oppressive regimes in the world. Political prisoners are routinely tortured and the rape of women and children is used as a weapon of war against ethnic minorities.

“I would urge anyone who may be thinking of visiting Burma on holiday to consider carefully whether by their actions they are helping to support the regime and prolong such dreadful abuses”, said the Prime Minister, in a message of support to the campaign. (Full statement in notes to editors)

Celebrities signing a pledge not to holiday in Burma include: Anna Friel, Sir Ian McKellen, Honor Blackman, Susan Sarandon, Robbie Coltrane, Jay Kay,  designer Vivienne Westwood, Tony Robinson, Fay Ripley, Juliet Stevenson, Graham Norton, Zoe Wanamaker, Maureen Lipman, Prunella Scales, Joanna Lumley, author Iain Banks, Esther Rantzen, Richard Wilson, and Christopher Lee. (For a full list see note to editors).

The Burma Campaign UK is urging people to join them by signing a pledge not to visit Burma on holiday on a new website:http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/index.php/burma/about-burma/about-burma/im-not-going-to-burma

Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner and leader of Burma’s democracy movement, has repeatedly asked tourists not to visit Burma. No where else in the world have human rights abuses and tourism been so closely linked. Slave and child labour has been used to build tourist infrastructure such as hotels and roads. The regime says that tourism earns it $100 million a year. It spends around 50 percent of its budget on the military and just 19p per person per year on health.

“In Burma tourism doesn’t help most ordinary people, instead it finances the regime that keeps them poor and oppressed.” says Yvette Mahon, Director of the Burma Campaign UK “Every tourist that visits Burma puts money into the hands of the regime. That is why Burma’s democracy movement has asked tourists to stay away. Please respect their wishes, don’t go.”

Quotes in support of the campaign:

Iain Banks
“Defeat the dictators – have fun somewhere else!”

Vivienne Westwood
“There is one thing everybody can do for us and our children and our planet: fight for human rights and justice before the law.”

Michael Howard
“I am very happy to support your campaign and pledge not to visit Burma on holiday until it is a democracy.”

Maureen Lipman
“It is enough that Aung San Suu Kyi has asked us not to promote tourism there. The regime has the worst human rights record – tourism there is seeing what the military allow you to see. Don’t go.”

Sankha Guha
“No-one should think about visiting Burma as a tourist until it has a legitimate government elected by its people.”

Sinead Cusack
“The regime in Burma is a brutal unjust one and I have no desire to support it in any way.”

Joanne Lumley
“I’ll visit beautiful Burma when Aung San Suu Kyi says so.”

Honor Blackman
“Going to Burma indicates that one is content with its regime.”

Arlene McCarthy MEP
“I look forward to the day that democracy returns to Burma and until that day I will not lend my support via tourism to a corrupt and degenerate dictatorship.”

Caroline Lucas MEP
“By pledging not to visit Burma until it’s a democracy, we can send a very clear message that Burma’s brutal military dictatorship is unacceptable and help to cut the lifeline that keeps the regime in power.”

For more information contact Mark Farmaner, Media Manager, on 020 7324 4713
NOTES TO EDITORS:

Background on Burma

Aung San Suu Kyi’s Party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won 82% of the seats in the elections in 1990, but the regime refused to hand over power and instead imprisoned and tortured NLD members. Amnesty International and the United Nations have reported a deteriorating human rights situation in Burma in the past year. Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest following a brutal crackdown and massacre of up to 100 of her supporters in May 2003. More than half the population of Burma lives in extreme poverty.
Celebrities and politicians supporting the campaign

Monica Ali, Lord Archer of Sandwell, Jane Asher, Margaret Atwood, Vera Baird MP, Iain Banks, John Bercow MP, Honor Blackman, Rt Hon Tony Blair MP, Prime Minister, Brian Blessed, Rhona Cameron, Michael Cashman MEP, Robbie Coltrane, Sue Cook, Ronnie Corbett, Richard Corbett MEP, Baroness Cox, Sinead Cusack, Charles Dance, Lord Faulkner, Anna Friel, Zac Goldsmith, Antony Gormley, Sankha Guha, Michael Howard MP, Nicholas Hytner, Glenda Jackson MP, Miriam Karlin, Jay Kay, Charles Kennedy MP, Glenys Kinnock MEP, Christopher Lee, Maureen Lipman, Ken Livingstone – Mayor of London, Caroline Lucas MEP, Joanna Lumley, Cherie Lunghi, Roger Lyons, Lee Mack, Art Malik, Linda McAvan MEP, Arlene McCarthy MEP, Ian McEwan, Ian McKellen, Fondation Danielle Mitterand, Graham Norton, Nicholas Parsons, Philip Pullman, Esther Rantzen, Fay Ripley, Angus Robertson MP, Tony Robinson, Jon Ronson, Andrew Sachs, Susan Sarandon, Prunella Scales, Dr Bob Spink MP, Juliet Stevenson, Catherine Stihler MEP, Tom Stoppard, Mark Thomas, Gary Titley MEP, Sandi Toksvig, Joanna Trollope, Minette Walters, Zoe Wanamaker, Sarah Waters, Timothy West, Vivienne Westwood, Stuart Wheeler, Phillip Whitehead MEP, Richard Wilson, Simon Woodroffe, and Susanna York.
Message from Prime Minister Tony Blair

The UK has been at the forefront of efforts over many years to draw attention to the extent of abuse in Burma, and to bring pressure to bear on the military regime to reform. We are actively working with our European and international partners, as well as through the United Nations and the International Labour Organisation, to press the regime to end the appalling human rights violations and to engage in a genuine process of national reconciliation. This must involve all relevant parties and groups in Burma.

Human rights violations in Burma have been highlighted in successive UN Resolutions which have drawn attention to torture, extra-judicial killings and rape by members of the armed forces, forced labour including the use of child soldiers and forced relocation of villagers. Together with our partners in Europe, the British government imposes a series of measures against those responsible for these crimes. For as long as they continue, I would urge anyone who may be thinking of visiting Burma on holiday to consider carefully whether by their actions they are helping to support the regime and prolong such dreadful abuses.

 


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