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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2611

Gordon Brown’s historic statement on Burma

London, 04 September, (Asiantribune.com): The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued an unprecedented statement on Burma on 02 September, in which he called on the UN Security Council to consider “the grave situation” in Burma “at the earliest opportunity” and promised to personally raise the situation with other world leaders. The statement comes after a major campaign by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and Burma Campaign UK to put pressure on the British Government to lead calls for the UN Security Council to discuss Burma.

The Prime Minister also said he is instructing the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, to discuss Burma with other European Union governments this week, and called for the UN Secretary-General, the UN General Assembly and the UN’s human rights bodies “to give this alarming situation the attention it so patently deserves”.

Gordon Brown’s statement is the first time a British Prime Minister has personally issued such specific promises on Burma. It follows statements last week from US President George W Bush and British Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague, and a personal telephone call from US First Lady Laura Bush to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in regard to the current crisis in Burma.

In response to continuing protests throughout Burma over the past two weeks against fuel price hikes, Burma’s military regime has launched a severe crackdown. Over 150 people have been arrested, including almost all the leading pro-democracy activists. The regime has used militia armed with iron rods and bamboo sticks in violent assaults on peaceful protestors.

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “We warmly welcome the Prime Minister’s significant statement in response to the current crisis in Burma. He has called for all the steps which we have been urging the UK Government to take for a long time. The situation in Burma has been badly neglected, and requires urgent action.”

The protests in Burma, the largest in a decade, began on 19 August in response to the regime’s decision to raise fuel prices. Hundreds of people have taken part in demonstrations almost every day in different parts of the country.

The military regime in Burma has one of the worst human rights records in the world. Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy, remains under house arrest. Over 1,200 political prisoners are in jail. Torture is severe and widespread. The regime is guilty of the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war, forced labour, the forcible conscription of child soldiers, the use of human minesweepers, extra-judicial killings, the destruction of over 3,000 villages in eastern Burma since 1996 and the displacement of more than a million people.

The full text of the Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s statement is given below:

London 02 SeptemberI deeply deplore the Burmese government's violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations. I call upon the Burmese authorities to release immediately all those detained merely for protesting at the hardship imposed on them by the government's economic mismanagement and failure to uphold fundamental human rights. I also reiterate the British Government's call for the release of all political prisoners, including Nobel Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi who has now spent almost 12 years of her life under house arrest.

As the lives of ordinary Burmese people continue to deteriorate, it is all the more important that all countries and organizations with an influence over the regime impress upon the generals the need for an early transition to democratic rule, full respect for human rights and genuine national reconciliation.

I support calls for the grave situation in Burma to be considered by the UN Security Council at the earliest opportunity. I also call for the UN General Assembly to address this issue.

We give our full support to the efforts of the UN Secretary-General's good offices mission. It is time for the UN human rights bodies to give this alarming situation the attention it so patently deserves.

I am asking the Foreign Secretary to discuss this issue with our European partners next week.

I will seek an early opportunity to raise the situation in Burma with my counterparts in the key regional countries and with our partners in the EU and the US.

- Asian Tribune -

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