Thursday, 19 June 2008

Myanmar monks urge EU to bring junta to war crimes court

Relief Web

BANGKOK, June 19, 2008 (AFP) - Activist monks called Thursday on the European Union to bring Myanmar's junta leader Than Shwe before an international criminal court to face charges of crimes against humanity.

The call was made in a statement on the 63rd birthday of Myanmar's detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was again marking the occasion alone and under house arrest in Yangon.

The All Burma Monks' Alliance, which claims to have organised mass protests against the regime last September, said Than Shwe should face trial for blocking relief supplies to victims of last month's devastating cyclone.

They also called for an international arms embargo and financial sanctions against the generals.

Cyclone Nargis killed more than 133,000 people when it struck the country formerly known as Burma nearly seven weeks ago, leaving 2.4 million in need of humanitarian aid.

The regime stonewalled international efforts to deliver aid for weeks after the storm, and continues to limit the work of foreign disaster experts.

'The actions of the junta leave millions of people to die from starvation and infectious diseases in the delta region, while blocking relief efforts and assistance offered by the international community,' the group said in a statement received in Bangkok.

'We request the EU to bring Than Shwe, leader of the Burmese military junta, before the International Criminal Court to be tried for his crimes against humanity, as recommended by the European Parliament,' it said.

The European Parliament last month approved a non-binding resolution saying the regime could face charges at the court if they 'continue to prevent aid from reaching those in danger.'

France first raised the idea that Myanmar's actions could constitute crimes against humanity, a charge normally used to prosecute war crimes such as genocide.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates accused the regime of 'criminal neglect,' while British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the junta's actions 'inhuman.'

The monks' group, which operates underground, claims to be one of the organising forces behind last year's mass protests, which were violently broken up when security forces shot and beat people in the streets.

At least 31 people died and 74 remain missing, while hundreds more were imprisoned, according to the United Nations.

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