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Date: Wed, 3 Feb 1999 22:18:40 +0800
Reply-To: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@LIST.MSU.EDU>
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From: E Phillip Lim <alsona@PACIFIC.NET.SG>
Subject: Fwd: MM: British MPs Urge Tougher Action To Stop Karen Genocide

Parliamentarians call for tougher action to stop Karen genocide

From the Jubilee Campaign
2 February 1999

On February 1st, a delegation of Parliamentarians met with the Minister of State at the Foreign Office, Derek Fatchett, to raise concerns about genocide against the Karen people in Burma. The delegation was organised by Andrew Miller MP and the Jubilee Campaign, and included James Moorhouse MEP, The Earl of Sandwich and Rev. Martin Smyth MP.

The Burmese military has been conducting ethnic cleansing against the Karen and other minorities in Burma. At least 30,000 Karen civilians have died in the last five years as a direct or indirect result of Burmese military action. There are an estimated 300,000 internally displaced Karen in Burma, many of whom are hiding in the jungle, on the run from the Burmese army who normally shoot them on sight.

The Parliamentarians urged Derek Fatchett to explore ways of toughening Britain and the European Union's stance on Burma. James Moorhouse and Rev. Martin Smyth pointed out that Britain had a moral obligation to assist the Karen people, especially since the Karen had been Britain's loyal allies during the Second World War. Rev. Smyth said there was also an immediate and urgent concern about the Burmese army's present dry season offensive against the Karen. Andrew Miller added that during the current offensive, there was a real danger of cross-border attacks by the Burmese army against Karen refugee camps in Thailand. The Earl of Sandwich expressed concern about the forced repatriation of Karen refugees to Burma by the Thai authorities. There are about 120,000 Karen refugees currently in Thailand.

Mr. Fatchett said he shared the concern expressed by the Parliamentarians about the appalling human rights abuses in Burma, particularly against ethnic minorities, including the Karen. He said the UK had argued for, and obtained, a strengthening of the EU Common Position on Burma. The British Government had gone further than EU partners in that it does not encourage trade or investment in Burma. British Government spending had been withdrawn from trade promotional activities in Burma and its policy had been made clear to UK companies wishing to trade with Burma, including Premier Oil. However, sanctions would require agreement amongst EU partners and should not breach World Trade Organisation obligations.

Mr. Fatchett stated that the UK remained at the forefront of international action against the Burmese regime and would continue to press the regime to improve human rights and to enter into dialogue with democratic leaders, including ethnic minorities. The UK would continue to work with the EU, UN and others to improve the situation in Burma.

Wilfred Wong, Parliamentary Officer for the Jubilee Campaign, says, "We certainly welcome Mr. Fatchett's concern for the ethnic minorities in Burma and appreciate whatever measures the British Government has taken on this matter. However, there is room for stronger action and we hope that additional measures will soon be implemented to increase the pressure on the Burmese regime to end their genocide against the Karen, Shan, Karenni and other ethnic groups in Burma. For instance, the United States Government has banned new investment by U.S companies in Burma, we hope that soon Britain will do likewise."

With an estimated 7 million or more people, the Karen make up the largest ethnic group in Burma after the Burmans themselves. The Karen were close allies of the British during the Second World War and gave substantial assistance to British soldiers in resisting the invading Japanese armies. Many Karen were tortured and killed by Japanese soldiers because of their loyalty to the British.

Jubilee Campaign is an interdenominational Christian human rights pressure group which has worked with more than 150 British MPs on countries as diverse as Egypt, Sudan, Burma, China, Indonesia, Mongolia, Pakistan, Morocco and the former Soviet Union.

For further information, you can contact Wilfred Wong on 0171 219 5129. --Rachel Bader Tel: ++ (0) 1483 894 787 Fax: ++ (0) 1483 894 797 E- mail: rachel@jubileecampaign.demon.co.uk

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