Wednesday, 6 August 2008

China urged to change Burma policy before Olympics

By Solomon
05 August 2008

New Delhi (Mizzima) - China has been urged to use its leverage on Burma's military rulers and to facilitate democratic reforms in the troubled Southeast Asian nation. The appeal was made by several Burmese activists groups along with international supporters.

Over 50 organizations including several Burmese activists groups and international campaigners in a joint statement on Monday urged the international community to stand with the people of Burma, and particularly call on China to address the problems of Burma.

"China is uniquely positioned to address Burma's problems and to facilitate democratic reform," the statement said.

Though 20 years have passed since the largest pro-democracy protests broke out in Burma, the people are still under the repression of military rulers and international community's efforts have failed to bring about tangible political changes, the statement said.

"This is why international demands for change must be matched with action, including an arms embargo and targeted financial sanctions," the statement said.

Soe Aung, a member of the 88 generation student group in exile said, it is high time the United Nations and the international community give a time-line to Burma's military rulers to implement political reforms.

"UN must give a time limit to the Burmese government to implement political reforms otherwise there will be no changes," Soe Aung said.

The joint statement, issued in the run up to Burma's historic day, when student-led nationwide protests broke out demanding democracy on August 8, 1988, said the situation in Burma and its regional impact have worsened since 1988.

Burma's ruling junta has used hundreds of millions of dollars from the country's vast oil and gas reserves to buy weapons from China, Russia and India to continue their oppression, the groups said.

The junta's misrule has led to increasing displacement, drug trafficking and other threats to human security in the region.

In 2007 alone, 76,000 people in eastern Burma, bordering Thailand, were displaced due to the junta's increased military offensive, the statement said.

But August 8, 2008, the 20th anniversary of the largest pro-democracy protests in Burma, will also mark the beginning of the Beijing Olympics. And in keeping with the Olympic spirit, China should stop supporting the brutal junta in Burma, campaigners said.

"China must stop protecting Burma at the UN Security Council," the joint statement added.

Soe Aung said, Burma's military rulers are continuing with their dilatory tactics in implementing reforms as they are certain that China and Russia are behind them and support them.

China and Russia, two veto wielding countries in the UN Security Council, in January 2007 blocked a proposed Council resolution on Burma sponsored by the United States and backed up by United Kingdom and France.

"Their [China and Russia] support is heightening the sufferings of the people of Burma and is causing a threat not only to the security of the country but also to the region," said Soe Aung.

China and Russia should use their leverage to talk to the Burmese government for political reforms, he added.

However, China and Russia are two of the few friends that Burma's military rulers have and the junta is more than willing to allow China and Russia to do business in the country while the two countries in turn supply military hardware and provide technical training.

Meanwhile, a campaign group - Free Burma Coalition-Philippines (FBC-Phils) on Tuesday reminded China of its pledge to improve its own human rights record by changing its foreign policy on Burma.

"China's pledge to improve its own human rights record should extend to its foreign policy especially to Burma, where human rights abuses are rampant," the group said.

The FBC-Phils said, as part of the aim of the Olympics is to place sports for the harmonious development of people, promotion of a peaceful society, and preservation of human dignity, the Chinese government must now replicate that in their policy on Burma.

"With just a few days remaining before the Olympics, we hope that the Chinese government realizes that another torch must be carried: the torch of freedom and democracy for the people of Burma," Egoy Bans, spokesperson of the FBC-Phils said in the statement.

"If that happens," Bans said, "the Beijing Olympics will bring victory not only for the people of Burma but also for China and the whole world. No amount of Olympic gold medals could ever match that."

No comments: