Civil groups concerned over foreign military engagement in Burma
17 October 2013: 133 ethnic civil society organizations have expressed their grave concerns over the military engagement of UK, US and Australia with Burma Army forces.
They submitted to leaders of the three countries a joint letter containing a set of ‘preconditions’ that must be met if their engagement was to go ahead.
The preconditions include stopping attacks in both ceasefire and non-ceasefire areas, withdrawing military from conflict zones, publicly acknowledging past human rights abuses, and establishing independent bodies to investigate violations.
It also said: “While your intentions may be genuine, we are deeply concerned that your current approach to military-to-military relations will neither prove beneficial to our mutual goals of ending the Burmese military’s perpetration of human rights violations against us, nor bring us closer to national reconciliation. We urge you not to pursue military-to-military engagement without taking into consideration our concerns.”
The three countries have been urged to honor their commitment to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities and to protect the rights of the ethnic minorities in Burma.
Their offers to cement military cooperation and ties with the nominally democratic country of Burma had come following official visits to UK, US and Australia by military-turned-politician President Thein Sein earlier this year.
Accusing Burma’s military of committing various types of human rights violations, the letter said: “They have destroyed our villages, stolen our land, forced us to serve as their slave labor, to carry their equipment as they hunt down, torture, kill, and enslave our fellow ethnic brothers and sisters, and rape, gang-rape, and sexually assault our women and girls.”
“We know the Burmese military intimately, like no one else could. We speak of the past, and we speak of the present. We do not want this to be our future.”
The letter of the 133 organizations, representing 15 of Burma’s ethnic nationalities, was submitted today to President Barack Obama of the United States, Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom, and Prime Minister Tony Abbott of the Commonwealth of Australia.#