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Article in private journal attacks Burma Campaigners

New Delhi (Mizzima) –  An article published in the Rangoon-based “The Voice” journal on Monday made an unveiled attack on campaign groups such as the Burma Campaign UK, for misusing the name of Burma in lobbying western nations to impose sanctions on the Southeast Asian nation.

The article authored by “Aung Htut” a pen name on Monday said, the writer is extremely happy to see the US’s new policy of engagement with the Burmese regime, but fears that the US might revert to its old policy as these so-called activists are continuing to lobby to isolate Burma.

“It is not western governments but those individual foreigners who tried to formulate their own strategy in systematically isolating Burma,” the article said, “Most of misunderstandings (over Burma) came from them.”

The article also said these campaigners including members of the Burma Campaign UK and Institute of Democracy for Asia in the past had lobbied western countries for sanctions against Burma. As result Burma was isolated for several years.

Groups like the Burma Campaign UK have a limited number of Burmese people in the organisation, yet they have been effectively lobbying as representatives of the Burmese, the article said.

“The writer wonders how groups like the Burma Campaign UK have the right to represent the Burmese people. But what is certain is that they have misused the name of Burma and its people,” added the article.

But Mark Farmaner, Director of the Burma Campaign UK denied campaigning for the isolation of Burma but stressed that the BCUK is supporting sanctions against members of the Burmese junta and their business cronies, who are benefiting from the sufferings endured by the Burmese people.

He, however, viewed the attack as a natural reaction because of the nature of work that the BCUK has been committed to doing and the influence it has on government’s policies in telling the truth about human rights violations committed by the military junta.

“They attack us because we have been effective in raising awareness about what they are doing and getting the international community to increase pressure,” Farmaner said.

He said, the BCUK is not only committed to push for sanctions against the military regime, but is also pushing for a United Nations Security Council referral of Than Shwe and members of the military junta in the International Criminal Court for their crimes against humanity.

“Probably they attacked us as we are telling the truth about what is happening in Burma. We exposed human rights abuse, what is going on in jails with political prisoners in Burma and what is happening in ethnic areas where the Burmese Army is raping women and children,” Farmaner added.

The article in the Weekly also said, since the campaigners are mostly foreigners, the writer does not expect them to understand the Burmese peoples’ feelings and sufferings and will not sympathize with the life and condition of the country.

The writer said “as a strong advocate of engagement, it is encouraging to see key stakeholders are now showing signs of their willingness for engagement. If this could have been understood earlier, we could have seen good results. But it is only regrettable that much time had been wasted.”

But Farmaner said sanctions have been useful as a tool in reminding the Burmese generals that they are accountable for their actions and a reminder of the need to implement meaningful political reforms.

“We always support a combination of sanctions and engagement. So, the US policy is exactly what we have been campaigning for,” said Farmaner adding that the BCUK will continue campaigning for effective sanctions against the Burmese military regime.

Burma, under military rule since 1962, is contending with financial and economic sanctions by the United States, European Union and Australia for their human rights abuses and failure to implement democratic reforms.

But the US, after concluding its policy review on Burma last week, announced that it is changing track and will use a combination of sanctions as well as engagement.

The new policy comes at a time the Burmese regime, is particularly seen as keen to develop a new relation with the US, in the run up to their planned elections in 2010, which is a part of the junta’s seven-step roadmap to democracy.

While articles in privately owned journals are mostly written by authors unrelated to the Burmese regime, the journal, as per the junta’s law, has to go through the censorship board, which conducts a thorough check of the contents.

Occasionally, Burma’s military junta forces private journals to publish articles and commentaries written in favour of the junta, which the editors of the journals cannot refuse to publish as the consequences could cost their license to run the publication.

Last Updated ( Monday, 05 October 2009 22:53 )  

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