Remarks by Sabine Meyer.
The power of electronic media does not only represent one of the big differences to the 1988 revolt, but makes reference to a new phenomenon in popular uprisings - not only in Burma (!), which many commentators have noted. Modern technology is therefore very relevant for the debate within the Burmese opposition which is more and more divided between those who demand more sanctions and those who believe that the opening of the country will have the best effect.
§ 17 and 18
The demands for more sanctions are in the text because they reflect the present position of the Green parties. They were also supported by all political groups in the EP and adopted by the European Parliament (the latest two resolutions were passed in September). European public opinion is also in the expectation of stronger sanctions.
The international solidarity movement has however largely missed out on the controversial debates within the Burmese opposition, where voices have become more vocal over the last years on demanding a completely reversed attitude (see http://www.freeburmacoalition.org/).
SPIEGEL ONLINE - 9. Oktober 2007: Citation of a participant in a seminar organised by the social democratic Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung in Burma end of September, right after the shooting of monks:
"What will bring the system to break down is the opening (of the country - red.) not its isolation." All participants are against economic sanctions, which the EU and the US impose against their country. "You have to choke the generals with mobile phones, internet and foreign visits."
Thant Myint-U, author of "River of Lost Foot Steps", on the boycott of Burma/Myanmar:
"Isolation is the regimes default condition. It is what fuels the present system. Burma might not become a democracy over night, but it will certainly improve with some more outside interaction. Would Indonesia be better off, if no one had visited during its thirty years of military rule?"
Ham Yawnghwe, Director of the Euro-Burma Office in Brussels (October 2005) EBO has been among the sternest defenders of more sanctions:
"(...) while the EU sees the Burma/Myanmar issue as one of democracy and human rights versus authoritarian military rule, Burma/Myanmar's neighbours in ASEAN and China, see it in a different light. They see it as an issue of western /north /superpower nations trying to impose their will on smaller weaker nations. If this perception is not changed, neither the EU nor the United Nations will get much support from ASEAN or China in spite of their concern for what is developing into a regional problem. If the Burma/Myanmar issue is really an issue about democracy and human rights versus military rule should the EU concentrate on helping the people of Burma resolve their own problems rather than focus on sanctions or EU or international action to solve the problem? How can the EU help to convince other nations to work together to bring about change in Burma? The EU needs to explore in greater depth to what extent it can work with the people of Burma/Myanmar including the military and its neighbours to bring about the desired change that will serve both the interests of the EU and that of Burma/Myanmar. However, whatever the EU does, it can no longer afford to continue to manage the Burma/Myanmar issue on an ad hoc basis."
The European Green Party
- in reaction to the nationwide protests that have shaken Burma/Myanmar since the government announced drastic price increases for gas and fuel of up to 500% in August, the largest non-violent demonstrations in Burma since the crushed 1988 democratic uprising
- considering that according to the local UN representation, almost 90 % of the people live around or below the poverty line of 1 dollar per day
- expresses its grave concern about the adverse effects which the price increases of basic commodities will have on Burma's population and that the Burmese government is clearly incapable of utilising the country's extraordinary natural resources for the benefit of the people
- applauds the courageous actions of tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators and notably the leading participation of thousands of Buddhist Monks, who over weeks took part in protests against the repressive military regime in Burma/Myanmar in September 2007;
- utterly condemns the brutal response by the Burmese authorities, including the killing of a large number of peaceful protestors and is highly concerned about the reported disappearances and arrests of thousands of demonstrators, including numerous monks;
- Underlines that the mass revolt of the Burmese people against continued repression and impoverishment took place before the eyes of billions of people all over the world and hopes that thanks to modern technology the unhampered autocracy of reclusive dictatorships will soon become a phenomenon of the past
- calls for the immediate release of the leader of the opposition Aung San Suu Kyi as well as all political prisoners and all those who have been merely detained for the exercise of their right of expression;
- insists that nobody should be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment, all detainees should have the right to a fair trial, legal assistance, access to their families and to medical treatment;
- calls on the Burmese government to amend its decisions on the recent price increases
- welcomes the recent visit of the UN Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari to Burma and hopes that this marks the beginning of a process that must involve close monitoring of progress on human rights through additional visits by the Special Envoy as well as the UN Independent Expert on Human Rights Sergio Pinheiro and regular reviews by the Security Council.
- heavily criticises that the national convention was concluded without taking account of the recommendations made by the UN Secretary-general to transform it into an inclusive and democratic constitution making process,
- notes the recent nomination of Deputy Labour Minister Aung Kyi as 'minister for relations' to coordinate contacts with Aung San Suu Kyi and calls on the General Than Shwe to enter into contact with the opposition leader without pre-conditions
- Strongly urges the military regime to invite all parties concerned for a substantive political dialogue and to find a common framework for a constitution, based on which all parties can jointly participate in a democratic transition and nation building process;
- supports in this context the letter to the UN Secretary-General, signed by 92 Burmese MPs-Elect of 1 August 2007, which include a proposal for National Reconciliation and democratization in Burma;
- calls on the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to hold urgent talks with the foreign ministers of China, India and the current ASEAN chair Singapore as well as Japan with the view to organising an "International Conference on Burma/Myanmar" aiming to find the means to solve this political crisis in Burma through a negotiated settlement;
- Calls on China and Russia to support a binding resolution including a clear condemnation of the Burmese government on Burma/Myanmar at the Security Council of the United Nations;
- Calls on the ASEAN countries and notably Burma's biggest trading partner Thailand to decide on concrete actions in the framework of the upcoming ASEAN summit, scheduled for November 19-21 in Singapore
- Calls on the EU Council to enlarge its imposed sanctions system in order to include investments in and imports of oil, gas, timber and gems from Burma
- Supports a Europe-wide boycott of all European companies who continue to trade with, invest in and cooperate with the Burmese regime , including the French oil company, TOTAL;
- Calls on the European Commission to reverse the decline in support for projects promoting human rights and democracy in Burma, and to instead significantly increase such financial support in the framework of the Instrument for Human Rights
- is extremely concerned about the rapid degradation of Burma's environment due to pollution of ground water and rivers, the uncontrolled plundering of forests and fish stocks as well as the indiscriminate gold and gem mining for export under the control of the army
- Calls on the Commission and the EU member states to support programs in Burma in order to monitor pollution risks and to increase awareness and know how on the environmental degradation threatening the country's very future
- Calls on all parties involved in the planned construction of the Hat Gyi Dam which is supposed to start in November, to reconsider the project in view of the horrendous human and environmental costs to be expected such as the estimated dislocation of up to 10 million people of 13 ethnic groups
- Acknowledges the many protest actions and demonstrations already organized by the EGP's member parties throughout Europe in support of the people of Burma and encourages them to continue such protests until the people of Burma are allowed to enjoy their full democratic and human rights.