News Update: This Month in Burma
A lot has happened in Burma during the last month. We want to keep our supporters updated on what is going on in Burma with an overview of issues, reports, actions, etc. Don't forget to check out our Facebook, Twitter, and Blog for daily news and updates.
US ACTION: DEREK MITCHELL CONFIRMED AS THE FIRST U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE AND POLICY COORDINATOR FOR BURMA
Ambassador Derek Mitchell is now the first ever U.S. Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma. This position was created by the United States Congress more than three years ago with the Tom Lantos Block Burma JADE Act of 2008. Ambassador Mitchell left today for his first official trip to Burma and Thailand. The U.S. Special Representative and Policy Coordinator is tasked to promote a comprehensive international effort, including multilateral sanctions, direct dialogue with Burma’s regime and democracy forces, consult with the European Union, ASEAN, Burma’s neighboring countries and regional powers, and coordinate sanctions within the U.S. Government and other relevant international financial institutions. More information about Ambassador Mitchell’s trip to come.
Recently, Burma’s “new” regime has taken steps to paint a public facade of democratic reform. Reading the headlines it is easy to hope the regime is sincere, but what they say has been very different from what they do. The most high profile political move has been meetings between the leader of Burma’s democracy movement Nobel Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the regime, notably a meeting between her and the regime’s President Thein Sein. These talks are most welcome but must be accompanied by meetings with pro-democracy ethnic forces. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic groups have called for national talks including all parties, but the regime refuses. Furthermore, the regime’s President Thein Sein invited exile activists to return back to Burma, however, when a journalist did return he was immediately detained, potentially becoming another of the nearly 2,000 political prisoners still behind bars. These measures are a smoke and mirrors tactic to draw attention away from the growing conflict in Northern and Eastern Burma (and with that the expanding humanitarian crisis). There are some significant upcoming events that are the impetus for the regime’s cosmetic changes. UN Special Rapporteur for the Situation of Human Rights in Burma Tomas Quintana recently completed a trip to Burma, and his report on his visit will have a big impact at the UN General Assembly when they meet in October. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will also decide by their summit in October whether they will allow Burma to have the ASEAN chairmanship in 2014. Read our post about the Top 7 PR Ploys of the Regime.
ONGOING CONFLICT AND HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES
Conflict is escalating in Eastern and Northern Burma as fighting between Burma’s army and ethnic armed groups continues. On top of the half a million people chronically displaced in Eastern Burma, there are 30,000 newly displaced in Shan State and 40,000 newly displaced in Kachin State. This increased militarization and fighting has lead to a growth in human rights abuses – forced relocation, forced labor, sexual violence, etc. Hope for real peace is dim as the regime does not want to engage in a collective dialogue for national reconciliation in order to bring real peace.
Even in non-conflict areas human rights abuses continue against the civilian populations:
- The Chin Human Rights Organization released information on how the Chief Minister of Chin State has ordered forced labor. Read more here.
- The Human Rights Foundation of Monland has released an update on land confiscation and forced relocation in Mon State. Read more here.
-There still remain around 2,000 political prisoners in Burma. Unjustly imprisoned they face torture and deplorable living conditions. This abuse must stop. Read former political prisoner Ko Bo Kyi’s oped about why international action is needed to stop these crimes.
More leaders around the world are calling for an UN investigation into crimes against humanity in Burma. They recognize justice is essential for putting Burma on the road to real reconciliation and positive change. Today, five Nobel Peace Laureates sent a letter to Secretary of State Clinton urging her to take strong action to secure a UN Commission of Inquiry into crimes against humanity in Burma. Read the letter here.
Burma’s natural resources are being sold to international companies, at great expense to the people of Burma. The dams and pipelines being built will help secure other countries’ energy needs (particularly China), while the people of Burma will be left in the dark. Moreover, these projects are leading to a vast increase in conflict and human rights abuses.
The Myitsone Dam, being built at the confluence of the Irrawaddy River, is facing growing scrutiny inside Burma. An increasing number of people are pointing out how the damming of the Irrawaddy will cause irreparable damage to the whole country. Read more about the issue here. 1600 major figures in Burma as well as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi have joined the call to end the dam. Read the press release from Kachin Networking and Development Group "China speeds ahead with Myitsone dam despite civil war in Northern Burma."
The Shwe Gas Movement released the report “Sold Out” detailing the repercussions of both gas and oil pipelines being constructed across Burma and into China. The report highlights how these energy resources will only serve Chinese development as opposed to the energy-starved people of Burma. Furthermore, Burma’s local populations most affected by the pipeline construction are having their human rights abused and they are rarely receiving adequate compensation for the pipeline’s effects on their lives.
U.S. Campaign for Burma.