Nov 21, 2012

Philippine activists call to end humanitarian crisis in Kachin State and sectarian-violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Arakan

Philippine activists call to end humanitarian crisis in Kachin State and sectarian-violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Arakan
The recent humanitarian crisis in Kachin state and the worsening sectarian violence in Arakan clearly illustrate that despite the perceived democratic reforms, human rights violations continue to thrive in Burma. Today, we offer this birthday candle for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to give a light of hope to the peoples of Arakan and Kachin who still live in darkness.”
Thus said Egoy Bans, spokesperson of the Free Burma Coalition-Philippines (FBC-P) as the group together with other solidarity activists from the Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC) staged a public demonstration today in front of the Burma embassy in Makati City, Philippines in line with the international celebration of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's 67th birthday.
Born on 19 June 1945, Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate symbolizes the peoples of Burma's continuing struggle for freedom, peace and democracy. She has been under house arrest for almost 15 of the last 21 years by Burma's military regime but won a seat in the Burma’s parliament this year after she was released from house detention.
Carrying a giant replica of a birthday candle for Aung San Suu Kyi, the FBC-P and APSOC during the rally raised the issue of humanitarian crisis happening in Kachin State Burma for a year now where more than 75,000 people were already displaced due to heightened military operations.
Recent reports confirmed that fighting occurs almost everyday in Kachin State in Burma where internally displaced persons now live in squalid conditions with no access to assistance from local or international aid organizations. Human rights violations such as burning of villages, rape of women, torture and killings of civilians were also reported as a result of the continuing armed conflict in the said area.
The group likewise expressed concern over the recently reported sectarian-violence between Arakan Buddhists and ethnic Rohingya Muslims in the State of Arakan in western Burma. Reports said the violence erupted on June 3, 2012, when an estimated 300 Arakan Buddhists attacked a bus of traveling Muslims, killing 10 passengers. The angry mob according to some reports was reacting to information that an Arakan girl was allegedly raped and murdered in late May by three Muslim suspects.
The move follows rioting last week in two Rakhine areas that state media say left at least seven people dead and 17 wounded, and saw hundreds of houses burned down. On June 10, President Thein Sein of Burma declared a state of emergency in the area, authorizing the military to significant and sweeping administrative powers.
The situation now reached its alarming stage and may spiral out of control if those who should do something will not take the immediate and necessary steps. We call on the UN and other international agencies and diplomatic missions to help in finding meaningful resolutions to the ongoing conflicts in Arakan and Kachin states,” Bans added.
Bans explained, “Declaring a state of emergency by simply using the powers of the military were proven to be inadequate and the Burmese government cannot escape responsibility in not only preventing the escalation of these conflicts, but also in causing it because of its previous laws and policies that are still in effect.”
Meanwhile Malou Tabios-Nuera of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) said, “If the government of Burma is sincere in correcting its past mistakes, it should welcome an inclusive and genuine political dialogue as a crucial ingredient of reform and nation building. These conflicts cannot be solved militarily. A win-win political solution can be achieved if the government will truly recognize, uphold and protect the fundamental human rights of the peoples of Burma."
FBC-P and APSOC also urged the Burmese government to allow access of foreign diplomats and international humanitarian aid agencies to the conflict areas to assess the situation.
We challenge the sincerity of the Thein Sein administration to democratic reforms. They must work hand in hand with Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of the parliament to amend or repeal the existing repressive and discriminatory laws and policies that contribute to the aggravation of conflicts in Burma. They must heed the demands of the peoples of Burma for genuine democratic transformation, especially women, who continued to be used as tools for war in times of conflict situations. Without a sincere commitment and strong political will from the government, these conflicts will continue to happen,” Tabios-Nuera concluded. ###

Mar 26, 2011

Statement of support and solidarity to the people of Japan

Accordin to the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) and its allied networks in the region particularly the Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC)and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict- Southeast Asia (GPPAC-SEA) grieve the sudden loss of thousands of lives snuffed by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that had hit Japan in the early morning of March 11.

We express our heartfelt sympathies, support and solidarity to the people of Japan now suffering in the aftermath of these natural disasters and who are now reeling from its aftermath including the recent nuclear crisis.

We are gravely concerned that a potential man-made disaster from the nuclear meltdown in the battered nuclear reactor in Japan is imminent and should give pause for policy makers to junk the use of nuclear energy in addressing the basic requirements of modern living.
In these times of catastrophe, anxiety, and great depression , we believe that the world must rely on the indefatigable spirits of solidarity, sharing and friendship. Even a mighty Japan needs our generous hearts to rebuild their great nation. The people of Japan needs the international community to accompany them at this very crucial moment in their lives.

May the people of Japan continue to be strong and resilient and surmount all the challenges of this multiple crises as soon as possible. May our words of solidarity and prayers offer additional comfort and peace to the people of Japan.

Feb 23, 2011

Top US senator 'deeply concerned' for Suu Kyi safety

US Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, said Tuesday he had spoken by telephone with Myanmar democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi and was "deeply concerned" about her safety.
"I am deeply concerned about the junta's recent threats to her wellbeing and those of her National League for Democracy colleagues," McConnell, a fierce and frequent critic of Myanmar's military rulers, said in a statement.
"Such efforts at intimidation are an outrage and should be universally condemned by those around the world who value freedom and democracy. Along with my colleagues in the Senate, I will continue to closely monitor Suu Kyi's safety and the situation in Burma," said the senator.
State media in Myanmar warned in a recent commentary that Suu Kyi and her party will "meet their tragic ends" if they keep up their opposition to an end to Western sanctions.
The remarks follow a recent statement by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) that argued that the punitive measures were helping to pressure the authorities and had not affected the economy significantly.
It was the first explicit criticism of her by state media since her release in November after seven years of house arrest, days after an election that was denounced by democracy activists and the West.
The NLD reacted cautiously to the commentary, saying it had not received any official response from the authorities to its statement on sanctions.
Still, McConnell said Suu Kyi was "in good spirits and remains a vigorous champion for the people of Burma."

Myanmar Activist Suu Kyi Addresses Forum

Myanmar pro-democracy dissident Aung San Suu Kyi may not be ready to call for an end to Western sanctions against her troubled country just yet. But she made clear she thinks foreign investment will be key to lifting the Southeast Asian nation of 55 million people out of poverty — and that Western leaders should keep looking for ways to make more socially responsible investment there possible.
In a taped address (listen here) to the World Economic Forum, Ms. Suu Kyi said she “looks forward” to a day when her country will be open to more Western companies, though that day likely remains far off for now due to sanctions that block most U.S. and other Western firms from doing business there.
“We need investments in technology and infrastructure,” she said in the speech, recorded in Yangon, where she lives. “We also need to reform our legal system that we might be able to attract foreign direct investment and guarantee the rule of law.”
“I look forward to the day when there will be a political and social environment that is favorable to a wide range of investments in Burma,” she added, using the name for her country that is preferred by some Western governments, including the U.S. “We are certainly in need of innovation and diversification if our country is to fulfill the aspirations of its people and catch up with the rest of the world.”
The 65-year-old Nobel laureate has repeatedly signaled her intent to review the merits of economic sanctions against Myanmar since its military junta released her from seven years of house arrest in November. People familiar with Ms. Suu Kyi’s thinking say she is concerned that sanctions may be harming some of the country’s population by deterring necessary investments in health care and other services. But she remains reluctant to call for an end to the sanctions without significant concessions from the military regime, which swept Myanmar’s first national election in 20 years a few days before her release. Those concessions could include the release of 2,000 or more political prisoners, among other steps.
Ms. Suu Kyi added in her speech that her political organization, the National League for Democracy, has embarked on “an experimental microcredit scheme on a very small scale” to help bring more investment to poorer areas in the absence of more foreign capital. She didn’t elaborate further, though the very act of setting up such a program could be viewed as subversive in Myanmar, since the government officially disbanded the NLD last year. The group has continued to meet in defiance of state orders and has indicated it intends to keep operating as a social welfare organization.
The address underscored how technology is helping Ms. Suu Kyi reach a wider audience than in past years, which could help amplify her influence. When she was awarded the Nobel prize in the early 1990s, for instance, one of her sons had to accept the award on her behalf. Now, advances in technology have made it easier for her to speak more directly to her followers and world leaders. She recently was allowed Internet access in Yangon and has said she is interested in tweeting regularly.
Ms. Suu Kyi has declined opportunities to travel outside of Myanmar out of fears that the Myanmar government would not allow her to return home afterward.
In keeping with past public statements, she stopped short of direct, harsh criticism of Myanmar’s regime, which is accused of widespread human-rights violations since it took power in 1962. Some analysts and people familiar with her thinking have said they believe she is hoping to appear conciliatory so that the country’s newly elected government — including a parliament expected to convene as early as Jan. 31 — will be more willing to negotiate with her in her bid to bring about democratic reforms, though so far the government has given no indication it intends to hold talks with her.
She may also be afraid the government will put her back under house arrest if she is too openly critical of the regime, these people say.
Still, Ms. Suu Kyi made clear that she believes major political changes must occur in Myanmar if it is to catch up with the rest of the emerging world. “Despite an abundance of natural resources, Burma’s development has lagged far behind its neighbours,” she said. “Our government annually spends about 40% of our GDP on the military and barely 2% on health and education combined.”
She closed her brief speech by calling on “all those present at this gathering to use their particular opportunities and skills as far as possible to promote national reconciliation, genuine democratization, human development and economic growth in Burma.”

Jan 10, 2011

Indonesia puts the spotlight on human rights as ASEAN Chair

Jakarta – In its role chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year, Indonesia says it will make human rights its top priority.
At a news event Friday, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said his country hopes that during 2011, the ASEAN human rights commission will be more effective in fulfilling its mandate to demonstrate the organization’s commitment to respect the basic rights of human beings.
Putting the spotlight on human rights in ASEAN is major change from the past, says Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an analyst with the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.
ASEAN has been successful on issues such as promoting free trade and regional security matters, he says. But addressing contentious issues like human rights may be seen by some as a violation of ASEAN’s principle of not interfering in the internal affairs of it members.
“Members are happy to talk about it as long as it does not affect certain interests of their own countries,” Chachavalpongpun said. “But when it comes to tough issues like democracy and human rights we have to admit that not all countries in ASEAN are democratic.”
Among the 10 ASEAN states, Laos and Vietnam are one-party governments, led by the Communist Party. And human rights groups consider Burma’s military government among the world’s most repressive.
Last year’s election in Burma, also know as Myanmar, brought the issue of human rights within ASEAN to the forefront. Critics of the government say it stage-managed the vote to ensure the military remains in power.
Human rights organizations criticized ASEAN for not confronting Burma about the abuses there.
If Indonesia wants ASEAN to get serious about human rights, Chachavalpongpun says, it needs to abolish its principle of non-interference.
“I also think that maybe it is time for ASEAN to talk about some sort of punishment, maybe not to the point of expulsion [of member states]. There has to be some sort of compliance and what kind of punishment to be caused to certain members in the case that that member obviously do not comply,” Chachavalpongpun said.
Natalegawa says the situation in Burma last year did contribute to his country’s commitment to emphasize human rights in ASEAN. But he stopped short of recommending specific actions and said the situation there has improved since the election.
He noted, for instance, that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was freed from detention after the vote.
“Of course, over the past several weeks there have been important developments in Myanmar. The elections are notable,” Natalegawa said. “But on top of that we have had the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. So all these two important developments must be digested, must be absorbed, for ASEAN to be able to think ahead. How we can insure the issue of Myanmar or development in Myanmar can have a sense of closure in 2011.”
Rather than punish offenders, Natalegawa says Indonesia intends to use quiet diplomacy and consensus building to persuade ASEAN members to respect human rights.