Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tory Politicians See Burmese Repression First Hand

The pictures from Burman today of peaceful protests against the military rule warm the heart. Let's hope they bring the changes they are seeking. Two Conservative politicians, John Bercow and Baroness Cox returned last week from a visit to the India-Burma border with reports of gross human rights violations by Burma’s military regime against the Chin people.

They heard first-hand accounts of horrific forms of torture, conditions in prison camps, forced labour, rape, religious persecution, forced marriage and cultural genocide. According to one witness, prisoners in Chin State face even more severe torture and living conditions than in other prisons because it is a more isolated part of the country. He described how prisoners are shackled and chained, yoked like oxen and forced to plough fields and if they attempt to escape they are placed on a fire to burn, stabbed with knives, and then forced into a tub of salt water.

One witness told the delegation how he had been arrested and hung upside down for an entire night, with soldiers beating him and banging his body against a pillar continuously. Another man was beaten so badly he is now paralysed. Numerous further testimonies of torture, forced labour and sexual violence are documented in Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s report on the visit, which is released today.

Commenting on the visit, John Bercow said: “The military dictatorship in Burma is notorious for its savage human rights abuses. The desperate suffering of the ethnic nationals in eastern Burma has been extensively catalogued, but this compelling report draws on extensive eye-witness accounts to highlight just how grievously the Chin people are suffering at the hands of Burma’s sadistic tyrants. These proud but vulnerable people need help now. This report is a call to the international community to speak with one voice and demand that the dictatorship in Burma stop terrorising its people.”

Baroness Cox added: “It is time to turn rhetoric into action. The UN Security Council must set out specific objectives to be met by the regime, with clear timelines and benchmarks. If the regime fails to meet such goals, including the release of political prisoners by a specific date, it should face increased sanctions. Burma’s neighbours, particularly India, China and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), must use their influence with the regime to bring an end to the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the military. In particular, India should re-examine its conscience and stop providing arms and military training to the regime. India should also reconsider its economic investments in Burma, until a meaningful transition to democracy is underway. The suffering of the people of Burma has gone on too long with too little action.”

Benedict Rogers, Advocacy Officer for South Asia at CSW, who organised the visit and authored the report, said: “The visit and subsequent report come at a time when the world’s attention is once again on Burma. The country is witnessing the biggest protest movement against the regime in a decade. Over 200 people have been arrested, yet Buddhist monks are continuing to march in the streets. CSW is delighted that the United Nations Security Council held an informal meeting last week to discuss the escalating crisis. We hope that the report on our recent visit will remind the international community of the ongoing violations of human rights which must also be addressed and that this visit will help raise awareness about the plight of the Chin people who have long been forgotten.”


Anonymous said...

I wonder what the carbon footprint was of Bercow and Cox's visit to the Burmese border. Surely they could have used video conferencing?

Or is it one rule for Tory MPs and another for the rest of us?

Sir Dando Tweakshafte said...

Unfair, anon @ 1129h - Bercow isn't really a TORY MP...

Daily Referendum said...

General we have an incoming video call from the UK.

Oh really, what do the capitalist pigs want now?

They want to have a little chat about our human rights offences.

Jolly good. I can't fit them in now but I can squeeze them in between this afternoons torturing sessions.

Anon @ 11.29am you are a t*t.

Scully said...

I suppose that anonymous would suggest that the Burmese soldiers who systematically murdered and gang raped 14,000 Karen tribesmen in the Burmese jungle play Manhunt 2 on their Playstations instead of using up petrol in their 4x4s.

Although there is not much else I agree with John Bercow about, he has remained a steadfast supporter of the Burmese people. It is not a "fashionable" campaign since there is no oil and they are not interested in killing anyone outside their country.

What was one of the most educated, well-resourced countries in South East Asia has been brought to its knees whilst much of the rest of the world looks elsewhere. A recent report commissioned by Desmond Tutu and Vaclav Havel showed that the atrocities in Burma was the only event in recent history to have met all five conditions set by the United Nations that defines genocide.

I have written about the situation back in 2006, here. I appreciate all of the coverage that is finally turning the spotlight onto this sorry country and hope that others will take a few moments to educate themselves about the situation rather than make facile comments. Amazingly to some, there is a world outside party politics.

Anonymous said...

So Bluetongue Brown's latched onto another Conservative subject

A year ago at the Bournemouth Conference, a Burmese woman was invited by David Cameron to speak on the main stage

Anonymous said...

I notice from looking at the Tory Party website that the foreign affairs team has issued no words on Burma and nothing after the ITN/Gordon Brown Zimbabwe stories of last week - in fact nothing since early July. Are they all asleep or is it that the party does not 'do' this sort of foreign policy?

Iain Dale said...

Nostradamus, it may be a failing of the website, but both William Hague and Andrew Mitchell have made speeches on Burma recently. Mitchell went on a trip to the Burmese border and crossed into the country to see conditions for himself. He also went to Rangoon.

Man in a Shed said...

What is missing here is the forced conversions and violence against Christian people and buildings. There are records of Christian families having their children kidnapped by Buddhist monks ( the ones every one is getting so dewy eyed about right now).

In this case the Buddhist and the military junta work together.

Anonymous said...

God bless Baroness Cox and John Bercow.

In 1988 the world was surprised by the massacres in Burma.

If a massacre happens now then the world will not be surprised. So it will be on our conscience(s).

Solidarity “is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all” -- Pope John Paul II

Manfarang said...

The British are not remembered with much affection in Burma.

Manfarang said...

"there is no oil"
Have you forgotten dear Bill and the Burmah Oil Company? And the famous telegram from the Americans at Yenangyaung to Government House?
Oil and natural gas were recently discovered in the Shwe field in the Bay of Bengal.

Anonymous said...

Did bercow make it out of the country?

Anonymous said...

daily referendum, I'm sure the generals will be encouraged instead to give up power by the visit of a (former) Tory MP.


Anonymous said...

At least you have politicians willing to get a first-hand feel for this tragedy. Not like Australia.