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Campaigners Praise “the First Step” by UN Security Council, Call for Arms Embargo (click to view PDF)

For Immediate Release
October 11, 2007
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum (202) 234-8022

(Washington, DC, October 11, 2007) The U.S. Campaign for Burma (USCB), a Washington, DC based advocacy and activist group promoting human rights, freedom and democracy in Burma, today welcomed the first-ever Presidential Statement on Burma issued by the UN Security Council. USCB recognizes that although this statement falls short because it does not have the binding power of a resolution, it is the first ever action by the Security Council and was given with unanimous endorsement of all 15 members, including China and Russia.

“This is a first step when what Burma needs is a concrete measure,” said Aung Din, a former political prisoner and Executive Director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma. “We hope the Council follows this move by implementing an arms embargo that stops countries from shipping weapons to this regime.”

In the Statement, the Security Council unanimously and strongly deplores the use of violence against peaceful demonstrations in Burma and welcomes Human Rights Council Resolution       4-5/1 of October 2, 2007. The demonstrations, which were led by non-violent Buddhist monks, rocked the country over the past two weeks. As the result of the brutal crackdown by the regime, more than two hundred peaceful demonstrators, including monks, students and civilians, were killed, several hundred were injured and more than three thousand were arrested.

The Security Council emphasizes the importance of the early release of all political prisoners and remaining detainees. It also calls on the military regime to create the necessary conditions, for a genuine dialogue with Daw Aung san Suu Kyi and all concerned parties and ethnic groups, in order to achieve an inclusive national reconciliation with the direct support of the United Nations. The Council also calls on the military regime to take all necessary measures to address the political, economic, humanitarian, and human rights issues.

“I believe that this statement is the first step of UN Security Council involvement in Burma. This should be followed by an arms embargo. I hope that this will lead to further decisive and effective action soon if the Burmese regime fails to implement the concerns expressed by all members of the Security Council within a reasonable period,” says Aung Din. “I encourage Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to visit Burma, together with his Special Adviser Mr. Gambari, as soon as possible to deliver the Statement of the Security Council and to facilitate a meaningful political dialogue between the military junta, the National League for Democracy party led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and the ethnic representatives,” continues Aung Din.

Since August, Burma has captured the attention of the world when democracy activists staged peaceful protests by marching in the streets. After most of the leaders of the 88 Generation Students were arrested by the regime, Buddhist monks, who are highly respected by the people of Burma, continued the peaceful protests. Hundreds of thousands of students and civilians joined with tens of thousands of monks, marched peacefully in the streets in every major city, calling for the military junta to reduce the price of basic commodities and fuel, to release all political prisoners including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and to engage in a meaningful political dialogue with the democratic opposition. The military junta deployed tens of thousands of soldiers, armed with automatic rifles and batons; threw tear gas canisters and shot at the crowd. During the two-day rampage on September 26 and 27 alone, more than two hundred protesters were killed and more than three thousand were arrested. A curfew order was imposed in two major cities, Rangoon and Mandalay, since September 25, and more arrests were made by soldiers raiding major Buddhist monasteries at night.

“I urge the members of the Security Council to be ready to discuss a resolution that includes an arms embargo very soon, as the regime will not listen to the voice of the Security Council if there is no concrete action beyond statements. An international arms embargo and a ban on investment are necessary measures to make the voice of the Security Council stronger,” says Aung Din.

Burma is a country in Southeast Asia, ruled by a military junta since 1962. A 1988 popular democracy uprising ended with bloodshed, with the ruling military regime killing at least three thousand peaceful demonstrators. The Burmese military regime is notorious for its use of forced labor and forced relocation, forced recruitment of up to seventy thousand child soldiers, the use of rape as weapon of war against ethnic minority women, and military offensives against civilians to control the ethnic minority areas. The regime has destroyed over 3,000 villages, driven out more than one million refugees to neighboring countries and forced more than a half million citizens to become internally displaced.

Despite countless recommendations from the UN system with 35 resolutions in 19 years, the military regime continues its human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity to this day, with the support of China. Burma was placed on the permanent agenda of the UN Security Council in 2006, despite the objection of China. However, China and Russia exercised their veto powers to kill a resolution on Burma, which was non-binding and intended to strengthen the good offices mandate of the Secretary-General. The initiative was proposed by the United States and United Kingdom in January 2007.