News and Reports
UK Governments Shameful Failure to Take Action
UK must call for Security Council and European Union discussions
The Burma Campaign UK today strongly criticised the British government for failing to take any concrete action on Burma, following a week of arrests and beatings of democracy activists. The Burma Campaign UK will be holding its first demonstration outside the Foreign Office in more than a decade at 12 noon on Tuesday 28th August.
Protestors took to the streets of Burma on 19th August following fuel price increases of up to 500 percent. On the eve of a major protest in Rangoon last Wednesday, the regime arrested 13 leading democracy activists in midnight raids. Despite intimidation, including brutal attacks on protestors by regime thugs, hundreds of demonstrators have continued to protest.
More than 100 people have been arrested in the past week, and most remain in detention. The regime has accused peaceful protestors of involvement in terrorism, and is threatening jail terms of up to 20 years. Those arrested face torture, including beatings, electric shocks, burning, and the iron rod where a rod is run up and down on the shins until the skin and flesh are removed and the rod is grinding on bone.
It is shameful that the British government has not taken any concrete action in response to this new wave of repression in Burma, said Mark Farmaner, Acting Director of Burma Campaign UK. The British government should be calling for discussion at the UN Security Council, and by the EU, and considering strengthening unilateral sanctions. Instead they seem to have adopted a wait and see attitude. How many more people will have to be arrested and tortured before the UK decides it is time to act?
The British government has traditionally been one of the leading critics of the regime in Burma, but this leadership role has been waning since it co-sponsored a UN Security Council resolution in January 2007, which was vetoed by China and Russia. There seems to be no sense of urgency to tackle the situation in Burma, despite the regime being one of the most serious human rights violators in the world. Since the Security Council veto, the British government failed to press for the EU Common Position on Burma to be strengthened when it was renewed in April, failed to support an International Labour Organisation referral of Burma to the International Court of Justice over forced labour, and failed to take action when two British Virgin Island registered companies invested in Burmas gas fields.
The regime literally gets away with murder because every time they commit atrocities we see the same limp reaction from the international community, said Mark Farmaner. The regime launches a new wave of repression, the British government and others condemn them for it, but then fail to follow through with any concrete action. The British government appears to have no strategy, the EU certainly has no strategy, and the UN envoy to Burma, instead of rushing there at this time of crisis, seems to have gone into hiding.
Burma has been accused by the United Nations with a crime against humanity for its use of forced labour. It has also been accused by the United Nations of being in breach of the Geneva Convention for deliberately targeting civilians in its war against ethnic minorities. More than 3,000 villages in eastern Burma have been destroyed by the regime in the past ten years equivalent to one every week. In the past 10 days more than a thousand people have been forced from their homes by a new military offensive. The regime also uses rape as a weapon of war, even against children as young as five.
Gordon Brown and David Miliband must ask themselves the question, is the British government doing everything it can? The answer is no. Is that an acceptable answer as people in Burma are risking their lives and liberty for freedom? said Mark Farmaner. The tragedy is, despite the failure of the British government to act, it is still one of the democracy movements strongest supporters. That should shame governments around the world, and is one reason why the generals will sleep easy tonight.
For more information contact Mark Farmaner on 020 7324 4713.
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