Jun 08, 2004

Karenni: John Bercow - The Forgotten People

Editorial on the Karenni people
John Bercow: The Forgotten People

“Poverty, human rights abuses and humanitarian crises in Iraq, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Zimbabwe are part of the daily diet of political debate in Western democracies. It is entirely proper that they should be, but we should spare more than a thought for other nations whose peoples endure a similar plight.

Burma: a mockery of democracy

The Burmese military regime (the ‘State Peace and Development Council’ or SPDC) is responsible for systematic rape, use of human minesweepers and forced relocation of the ethnic Karenni nationals. The country’s badge of shame is that it has 70,000 child soldiers, the largest number of any nation in the world.

Over a million Karenni people are internally displaced (IDPs) in Burma and 365,000 have escaped to the Thai-Burma border, living in makeshift camps where conditions range from grim to dire.

Aside from their torture and genocide, the SPDC have flagrantly disregarded democracy. Fourteen years after ignoring the overwhelming victory of the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kui, the democracy leader and Nobel Laureate, remains under house arrest and 1,500 other political activists languish in prison. The regime’s National Convention, scheduled for the 17th May is a mockery of democracy in which the ruling junta has handpicked the delegates and insists on censoring speeches.

While the United States is imposing substantial sanctions on Burma, those of the European Union are timid and token by comparison. The British Government should press for a much more robust approach, favoured by all the democratic opponents that I met on the Thai-Burmese border last month.

This would send a clear signal that ethnic cleansing and the mockery of democracy will not go unpunished. In addition, DFID should follow the example of Norway and provide cross border humanitarian aid for the internally displaced people in Burma who are in desperate need of our help.

Source: Conservatives