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European Press Release on Burma 11

Subject: European Press Release on Burma 11 Oct. 96




    	The Government remains very seriously concerned at the continuing
	deterioration of the situation in Burma. We deplore in particular the
	practice of torture, summary and arbitrary executions, forced labour, abuse
	of women, political arrests, forced displacements of the population and
	restrictions on the fundamental rights of freedom, of speech, movement and
	assembly, which have been reported in the recent past.

    	When I attended the ASEAN Regional Forum in Jakarta on 22/23 July 1996,
	I sought a meeting with Mr Ohn Gyaw, the Foreign Minister of the Union of
	Myanmar. This was the first such meeting between the European Union and
	Myanmar since 1994.  In the course of our encounter, I indicated to Mr Ohn
	Gyaw in forthright terms the concerns of the European Union in relation to
	the deterioration of the political and human rights' situation in Myanmar
	and the unwarranted restrictions placed on the fundamental rights of freedom
	of speech, movement and association.

    	I urged the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) to
	implement, without delay, the immediate and unconditional release of all
	political prisoners in Burma and to enter into meaningful dialogue with Daw
	Aung San Suu Kyi and to bring about national reconciliation and democratic
	reform respecting the aspirations of the Burmese people as expressed in the
	elections of May 1990.

    	I also sought a full and satisfactory explanation of the circumstances
	leading up to and surrounding the death of the late Mr James Leander Nichols
	who had acted in a consular capacity for Demnark and Finland in Rangoon.  I
	should also add that discussion of Burma dominated the informal dinner for
	Ministers attending the ASEAN Regional Forum in Jakarta and was addressed at
	the ASEAN Regional Forum proper and at the ASEAN Post Ministerial
	Conferences and in bilateral contacts which I had with Ministerial
	colleagues from ASEAN and their Full Dialogue Partners.

    	On 26 September 1996, I led the EU Ministerial troika in a further
	meeting in New York with Foreign Minister Ohn Gyaw.  I reiterated the
	concerns of the European Union and indicated that the explanations which
	have been offered by the Burmese authorities to date are neither full nor

    	I informed him that, given the apparent unwillingness of the Burmese
	Government to enter into any significant discussions on the EU's legitimate
	preoccupations, the EU had taken a series of steps which it had already
	announced in Jakarta.  It had requested that:

    + 	The UN Special Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and Imprisonment
	visit Burma;

    + 	The UN Special Rapporteur on Burma investigate the circumstances of
	the death of Mr Nichols;

    + 	The UN High commissioner for Human Rights take action on Burma;

    	Since then the situation in Burma has deteriorated further, with the
	recent widescale detentions of supporters of the National League for	
	Democracy (NLD), and the blockading of access to the residence of NLD
	leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  On 1 October 1996, at a meeting of the
	General Affairs Council in Luxembourg, which I chaired, the European Union
	issued a Declaration expressing its concern at these events. The European
	Union called for the immediate and unconditional release of all of those who
	have been detained and to allow for the resumption of normal activities by
	the National League for Democracy. Finally, the European Union emphasised
	the need for a genuine dialogue to commence without delay between SLORC and
	the National League for Democracy as being the only possible credible way
	forward for national reconciliation in Burma.

    	The Council also noted that the EU Commission was completing its enquiry
	into possible future suspension of the Generalised Systems of Preferences
	trade benefits for Burma.

    	The Irish EU Presidency has also pursued the question at the highest
	level in diplomatic contacts most recently during the EU/Japan Summit on 30
	September 1996 when the Taoiseach raised the question of Burma with Prime
	Minister Hashimoto in Tokyo. There are also regular contacts with the
	American State Department in Washington DC concerning developments in Burma.

    	The European Union is giving active consideration to further possible
	restrictions in relation to Burma.  The situation is at present being
	discussed by the Common Foreign and Security Policy's Asia/Oceania Working
	Group at their meeting in Brussels today and tomorrow.