9 February 1995
The Honourable Andre Ouellet
Minister of Foreign Affairs & International Trade
Lester B. Pearson Bldg.
125 Sussex Drive, 10th Floor
Ottawa, ON K1A 0G2
With the assistance of your officials and other reliable sources we have been able to determine that the SLORC Tatmadaw has launched an all-out military assault against Manerplau, the final stronghold of the Karen, an indigenous people in Burma. The Karen have been resisting the oppression of the Burmese military dictatorship for decades. In addition to the loss of life and the thousands of refugees who will flee this latest onslaught, the fall of Manerplau will have serious repercussions for the democratic opposition: the political parties, which contested and won the 1990 elections, their leaders, students and other organizations. In recent years they have been given safe harbour by the Karen.
The loss of Manerplau will initiate a reign of terror against the Karen people as they seek to escape the oppression and vengeance of the attacking army and those living under their protection. This is a most serious development. The strongest and most competent opposition to the brutality of the SLORC regime has traditionally come from the Karen people. Now, SLORC has opted for a military solution instead accepting the Karen's desire for a democratic federal state.
The military assault against Manerplau undermines any shard of credibility gained by the regime in Rangoon through their recent attempts to suggest that Aung San Suu Kyi would be released as a preliminary step to finding a peaceful solution to the political crisis. It is clear to me that their meetings with the leader of the National League for Democracy were nothing more then a cynical charade to manipulate international opinion during the deliberations of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
I am now convinced that UN resolutions alone will not reduce the intransigence of this regime. Nor will "critical dialogue" assist unless and until it is girded by the promise of international action when dialogue does not produce compliance to basic international human rights standards.
In addition to urging you to release a strongly worded statement, I would request the Government of Canada to take a leadership role on this issue: to act multilaterally through its dialogue partners in ASEAN and at the United Nations to explore what sanctions would be appropriate when it becomes evident that so-called dialogue is being used simply to consolidate a military regime's ruthless grip on power.
International Centre for Human Rights
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ICHRDD CONDEMNS MILITARY ASSAULT AGAINST KAREN PEOPLE
Montreal, January 27, 1995 -- The State Law and Order Restoration Council of Burma (SLORC), under pretence of an apparent desire for conciliation, has launched an all-out military assault against Manerplaw, the final stronghold of the Karen, an indigenous people in Burma who have been resisting the oppression of the military dictators for decades. Mr. Ed Broadbent, President of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development (ICHRDD), has asked the Canadian government to take a strong stand on these developments.
As we go to press, it is probable that Manerplaw has fallen into the hands of the Burmese army. Apart from the reign of terror brought about by this assault, thousands more Burmese people will flee to Thailand, significantly increasing the large number of refugees already present in that country.
This assault shows that the Burmese government's dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and the international community is nothing more than a charade. It is evident that their only desire is to eliminate all opposition to their regime. The strategy being pursued here is similar to that used by the putchists in Haiti.
The ICHRDD is urging the Canadian government and the international community to take the necessary steps to assist in restoring democracy and peace in Burma. Ed Broadbent says Canada should play a leadership role: "I am now convinced that UN resolutions alone will not reduce the intransigence of this regime, nor will "critical dialogue" assist unless and until it is girded by the promise of international action when dialogue does not produce compliance to basic international human rights standards". If SLORC continues this reign of terror, Canada must act multilaterally through its dialogue partners in ASEAN and with like-minded nations to explore what sanctions would be appropriate to pursue against the regime and to put these sanctions into effect immediately.
In 1990, the National League for Democracy won the general election by an overwhelming 80% of the popular vote. The results of this election were never acknowledged by SLORC, and led to the violent repression of the Burmese people. Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Laureate and democratically elected leader of her country, remains under house arrest. Over the past four years, ICHRDD has intervened on numerous occasions to assist in the restoration of democracy to its rightful owners, the people of Burma.
Sources: Claudine Levesque
Director of Programmes
International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development-(514)-283-6073