As Crackdown on Mass Protests Continue, Campaigners Call for UN Secretary-General’s Immediate Intervention, Security Council Action on Burma (click to view PDF)

Call Follows Public Pronouncements from US, UK, French Governments

For Immediate Release
August 23, 2007
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum (202) 234-8022

(New York, August 23, 2007) A leading human rights organization in the United States today called on the UN Secretary-General to publicly condemn a major crackdown on peaceful demonstrators in the Southeast Asian country of Burma and urged the United States, the United Kingdom, and France to call for a discussion of the situation in Burma at the UN Security Council.

The call follows condemnations of the crackdown in the past 24 hours by the United States, France, United Kingdom, and Canada. So far, the United Nations Secretariat and Security Council have both remained silent, even though Burma was voted onto the permanent agenda of the Security Council in September 2006.

“United Nations leaders and mechanisms must not be complacent or silent during this critical time,” said Aung Din, policy director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma. “It is time for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to personally intervene and the Security Council to formulate a collective response.”

Two days ago, at least 20 key human rights activists – including Min Ko Naing, Burma’s second most prominent leader after Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi – were arrested as demonstrators took to the streets to protest a quintupling of fuel prices in the country. The move to increase the prices has sparked widespread anger in Burma, as Burma’s exports of fuel has skyrocketed and brought the military regime windfall profits.

Nevertheless, demonstrations continued for a third day through Burma, despite attempts by the regime to suppress the protest. Sources indicate that military vehicles and personal are being stationed out of sight in government compounds and houses around the city, enabling the regime to reach all parts of Rangoon within minutes.

Thousands of police and members of the regime’s civilian militia Union Solidarity and Development Association – the same organization that attempted to assassinate Aung San Suu Kyi in 2003 while beating to death 100 of her supporters – are deployed throughout Burma’s cities where they continue violent attacks on protestors. Dozens of demonstrators have been beaten and dragged into trucks today, in which they are whisked away to detentions centers infamous for torture.

The moves inside Burma have garnered world media attention, with at least 500 news articles in the past 48 hours alone including in the New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, and newspapers throughout Southeast Asia.

Yesterday, three members of the Security Council – the United States, France, and the United Kingdom all issued statements condemning the attacks on innocent protestors.

Said the United States: “The United States calls for the immediate release of these activists, and for an end to the regime’s blatant attempt to intimidate and silence those who are engaged in peaceful promotion of democracy.”

Said France: “France is also deeply concerned by the use of force by pro-government militias in Rangoon against peaceful and democratic demonstrations. The military junta will be held solely responsible for the consequences that this unacceptable repression may have on the demonstrators.”

Said the United Kingdom: “The British Government condemns the detention of a number of Burma’s ’1988 Generation’ student leaders on the evening of 21/22 August. Those detained, and their colleagues, have exercised their right to peaceful protest at the harsh economic burdens being heaped on the long-suffering Burmese people. We support their call for the restoration of democracy and genuine political dialogue. We urge the Burmese government to free them immediately.”

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the World Organization Against Torture, and International Federation of Human Rights have all condemned the attacks and called for action. 

Abuses by Burma’s military regime are not limited to cracking down on protestors in Rangoon. Over 3,000 ethnic minority villages have been burned, landmined, or forcibly relocated by Than Shwe’s regime over the past decade. To put this in the context of a better-known world crisis, this is roughly twice as many villages as have been destroyed in Darfur, Sudan. Recent scientific reports show that health indicators for conflict areas in Burma are now on par with conflict zones in Africa. Burma’s military regime has also recruited up to 70,000 child soldiers, far more than any other country in the world, while refusing to adequately fund HIV/AIDs programs. Over 1 million refugees have fled the country, while 500,000 remain internal refugees in the war zones of eastern Burma.

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