Sunday, September 23, 2007

Burma: From Shadow International Development Secretary

See statement below which went out today from Andrew Mitchell MP, Shadow International Development Secretary

Mitchell: Key moment for Burma
Commenting on the protests in Burma, Conservative International Development spokesman Andrew Mitchell MP, who earlier this year became the first senior elected British politician in over a decade to hold a face-to-face meeting with the country's military regime, said:
"This is a key moment for Burma. There must be meaningful negotiation between the vile, illegitimate military regime which has stolen Burma's democracy and members of the democratic movement. There must be no repeat of the bloody crackdowns of 1988 and 1996.
Clearly arrangements must be agreed for the military to transition to a proper place in Burmese society. As I saw in Rangoon earlier this year, there are elements within the regime that, however grudgingly, understand that the present position is untenable. These less intransigent elements of the regime must ensure that this opportunity to bring peace and an end to ethnic cleansing to Burma is seized.
I call for the immediate release, unconditionally, of Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi as the first move in this process.
The British Government should now use every lever at its disposal to help promote a peaceful transition to democracy.
We look to the international community and especially China and India (the world's largest democracy) to ensure that at last some meaningful progress can be made.
The world should present the regime with a common, clear set of benchmarks and deadlines for real progress towards peace and meaningful dialogue with the legitimate representatives of the Burmese people.
We look to the British Foreign Secretary to pursue vigorously this agenda in New York next week."
Notes to Editors
In March 2007 Andrew Mitchell visited Burma and held the first face-to-face meeting in a decade between a senior member of the brutal military junta and an elected British politician.
He told U Kyaw Thu, the Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister and a former brigadier general, that the regime running Burma is wicked and illegitimate. He said: "People in the West regard your Government as a pariah state. You spend only a dollar a year per head on health and education and people are suffering terribly up and down the land."
He also held meetings with senior members of the National League for Democracy and other opposition figures including the leaders of the 1988 student revolt.
After leaving Rangoon he travelled to Karen State on the Thai-Burma border. He visited the Ei Tu Hta camp for internally displaced people, where he heard fresh evidence of renewed ethnic cleansing and human rights abuses perpetrated by the Burmese Army as part of their 50-year-old war against rebel groups. He heard shocking first-hand accounts of the torture and violence used by the Burmese army in their attempts to suppress the uprising.
Video diary
During his visit Andrew Mitchell made a video diary, which can be seen here: com/watch? v=kqnK4ta1Xgo&mode=related&search=
The film contains rare footage from inside the closed and oppressive regime and shocking first-hand accounts of torture and ethnic cleansing in the conflict-stricken Karen state on the Thai/Burma border.
Andrew visited Burma between 1st-3rd March 2007.