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Activists Briefed EU Ahead of High Delegation Visit to Burma

19 June 2011: Human rights advocates on Thursday held meetings with senior officials of the European Union in Brussels in advance of the visit of EU high delegation to Burma this weekend.

London-based Chistian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and Chin Human Rights Orgainzation (CHRO) jointly briefed officials at the European Commission and European Parliament.

They pressed for EU action on many issues facing Burma, as the world’s most powerful regional bloc prepared to send its high level delegation to the troubled southeast Asian nation on Friday.

Reminding that nothing has changed essentially since Burma’s national elections last November, the activists raised a range of issues, including the situation of political prisoners still languishing in Burma’s notorious jails; armed fightings in northern Burma’s Kachin State; situation of religious minorities and ongoing use of forced labor, as well as the need to establish an international investigative mechansim in order to ensure accountability to end the culture of impunity in Burma.

Benedict Rogers, East Asia Team Leader at CSW, said that the EU should press the new Burmese regime to free all political prisoners and allow access for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to monitor prison conditions and to meet with political prisoners.

Noting that Burma is headed to a new realm of ‘civil war’ with the Burma Army’s recent and ongoing aggression against ethnic resistance Kachin Army, the activists urged the EU to ensure the safety of civilians fleeing across the border into China and to urge Naypyidaw to halt the violation of armistice reached in 1994 with one of the strongest and oldest ethnic armed resistance movements.

Salai Za Uk Ling of CHRO said that the ongoing persecution against ethnic Chins in western Burma makes it clear that the new Burmese regime is yet to undertake meaningful reforms. He said that the largely Christian ethnic Chins continue to experience pervasive forced labor and persecution and discrimination based on the dual basis of their religious and ethnic identity at the hands of the Burmese authorities.

According to a report by US-based Nobel Peace Prize-winning Physicians for Human Rights in January, more than 90 percent of Chins were subjected to forced labor, while over 14 percent of the population reported being persecuted by the Burmese authorities on the basis of their ethnic and religious/Christian identity.

On the eve of the EU high delegation visit to Burma, the activists stressed the need to institute a UN-mandated Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma.

Providing an example in which a senior military officer who has been appointed a cabinet post in the Chin State Assembly, who has been accused of a range of past human rights violations against civilians in southern Chin State, the activists said that an international investigation is the only means to address the issue of accountability and deter future violations of human rights in Burma.

The high level EU delegation is set to arrive in Burma’s new administrative capital Naypyidaw this weekend.

Van Biak Thang
[email protected]

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