Toward Democracy, Human Rights and Federalism

Friday, February 3, 2012

Dr Sein Win's Letter to South China Morning Post

Thursday, November 20 2008, 01:37 PM EST

Dr Sein Win, prime minister of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, has urged leading governments trading with Burma to use their clout to enforce change and not let their trade interests supersede humanitarian concerns.

DR SEIN WIN'S letter to SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2008
In the "Other Voices" Column:

Trade Partners Can
Force Junta’s Hand

Recently, the world was given a moment to mark the 13th year of incarceration of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Yet, her case is just the tip of the iceberg. In the last weeks, four legal professionals in Burma have been imprisoned via a kangaroo court trial, for the crime of defending democracy.

Their number adds to the more than 2,000 political prisoners currently suffering in Burma's jails.

Until they are freed, Burma itself cannot be free.

In the year following the Saffron Revolution, the Burmese military junta has been busy. On the one hand, it has been kept active by increased international attention following last year's demonstrations, which was further bolstered by the aid effort following the devastating cyclone that struck in May.

In this context, the junta has been trying its best to look benign and reformist. Like eager – if bumbling – suitors, the generals have been courting the world's favours in an impossible attempt to make themselves look good.

However, there are also moves they have been trying to keep hidden. For instance, the military has been rounding up democracy supporters, rushing them through sham trials, and throwing them in jail.

The latest targets of the wrath of Burma's dubious legal system had lodged complaints with the courts that their clients had not been given fair trials.

These are not isolated examples, or even rarities. They are evidence of a culture of injustice which is inflicted on every level of Burma's long-suffering society.

We believe there are up to 70 political activists – and that term is used very liberally – involved in 45 cases currently working through this skewed legal system.

These cases violate, at the very least, Articles 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Burma supported when it was introduced. They also counter the United Nations Charter, to which all UN nations, Burma included, are obliged to adhere.

The pro-democracy movement has been heartened by the largely behind-the-scenes initiatives of the Chinese government. Yet, despite these actions, China still deals openly with Burma, including through the supply of military hardware to its generals.

India and Russia make up Burma's other major trading partners. Both China and Russia, of course, sit as permanent members on the UN Security Council and have used their veto to negate any stronger action of the part of the world body.

These negative negotiations between Burma and major trade partners must stop. Trade between Burma and the outside world must be sustainable or it must cease.

Further, under no circumstances should trade become the driver of diplomatic agendas. Leading governments trading with Burma must use their clout to enforce change, lest the horrors of Burma reflect too sharply upon them.

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