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Democracy for Burma

Subject: Democracy for Burma

/* Written 12:16 pm  Sep 20, 1993 by ichrdd@xxxxxxxxxxx in igc:synapses.news */
/* ---------- "Democracy for Burma" ---------- */
MONTREAL, September 17, 1993
For immediate release
Statement by Ed Broadbent,  President
International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development
     "On September 18, 1988, exactly five years ago tomorrow, the
Burmese military put a brutal halt to the burgeoning democracy
movement by declaring martial law, and constituting a 19-member
junta known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC).
     Five years ago, hundreds of thousands of students marched in
the streets of Rangoon.  Today, hundreds of thousands of people are
internally displaced or languishing in camps in neighbouring
states.  Five years ago, democratic forces were gaining strength,
preparing for elections, beginning to take the future of their
country in their own hands.   Today, the duly elected leader of the
National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi, is held
incommunicado under house arrest and those who supported her are
in prison or in exile.
      What are the accomplishments of the SLORC's five years in
power ?
     1.   It has succeeded in repressing all dissent by killing an
          untold number of people, imprisoning at least 1500 others
          and imposing strict government censorship on all media.
     2.   It has reduced Burma to the status of Least Developed
          Country according to the UN, meaning that the once self-
          sufficient nation is no longer able to feed itself
          although it continues to expand its lucrative drug trade
          and buy huge quantities of arms, mainly from the People's
          Republic of China.
     3.   It has developed the largest army in South East Asia with
          some 355,000 soldiers. 
     4.   Its reign of terror has persecuted ethnic minorities,
          perpetuated a civil war and caused hundreds of thousands
          of people to flee the country.
     5.   Its export of teak and the rampant selling of oil and gas
          concessions to foreign investors have caused
          environmental damage that will be paid for by generations
          to come. 
     6.   It callously ignored the results of the 1990 elections
          and placed the popular political leader and 1991 Nobel
          Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest.
These are the accomplishments of a regime, ostensibly established
to "restore law and order". 
     In February of this year, under the auspices of the
International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development,
a delegation of Nobel Laureates including His Grace Desmond Tutu,
His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Dr. Oscar Arias, concerned about
the fate of their sister Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi undertook to
visit her in Burma.   Refused entry to the country, they listened
to the stories of rape, forced labour and torture from refugees in
camps along the Thai-Burmese border.  These stories led them to
call upon the United Nations and the international community to
take a number of actions to put an end to the tyranny in Burma, to
restore basic human rights and democracy to its people.   They
     1.   Imposing economic sanctions, including an immediate and
          comprehensive arms embargo.
     2.   Withdrawing Burma's membership in the United Nations
          until Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners
          are released.
     3.   Continuing to refuse Burma membership to the Association
          of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and using their
          influence to pressure the SLORC to permit the restoration
          of democracy.
     It is time to re-evaluate how constructive the policy of
"constructive engagement" has been.   Its price has been countless
human lives, untold human misery and indeed, freedom itself.    We
must listen to the wisdom of the Nobel Laureates.   I hope to
address these and other issues when I visit the region in October."
For more information, please contact:
in Montreal:   Diana Bronson at 514-283-6073
in Bangkok:    Laura Allen at 662-286-8184