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Cameron urged to talk tough to Burma

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has called for the British Prime Minister David Cameron to make the issue of Burma’s ethnic nationalities a priority during his talks with the Burmese president.

Author Benedict Rogers, who was deported from Burma in connection with the publication of his biography "Than Shwe: Unmasking Burma’s Tyrant," has a new book on Burma coming out soon.He should press for an end to the conflict, particularly in Kachin State, and for a nationwide, inclusive peace process with all ethnic nationalities, in order to secure a durable political settlement, CSW said in a statement on Tuesday.

The PMs visit to Burma will be the first by any western head of government in decades. It comes just over a week after Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won 43 of the 45 parliamentary seats contested in by-elections on 1 April. Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide victory in her own constituency, Kawhmu, and hailed the results, expressing the “hope that this is the beginning of a new era”.

On April 7, leaders of the Karen National Union (KNU), representing one of Burma’s largest ethnic nationalities, held an historic meeting with President Thein Sein in Naypyitaw, and held talks with Aung San Suu Kyi the following day, in an effort to bring an end to 65 years of civil war. The regime has held cease-fire talks with other ethnic nationalities, and established some cease-fire agreements, the statement said.

However, the Burma Army continues to perpetrate serious human rights violations in the ethnic states, and in Kachin State, northern Burma, the military is carrying out widespread and systematic abuses and attacks on ethnic civilians.

The Rohingya people, a predominantly Muslim group who have lived in northern Arakan State for generations, are denied citizenship and are effectively stateless, subjected to severe restrictions and persecution.

CSW’s East Asia Team Leader Benedict Rogers said, “This historic visit is a rare opportunity to press home a clear message to President Thein Sein and the Burmese government: we welcome the steps taken so far, applaud the reforms and recognize the progress made; however, there is still a long way to go and much more to be done before Burma can be celebrated as a democracy.”

All remaining political prisoners must be released and unjust legislation repealed or amended, he said, and there needs to be substantial institutional and constitutional reform.

“Most importantly, the plight of the ethnic nationalities must be addressed through a meaningful, inclusive, nationwide political dialogue which leads to a political solution for the ethnic nationalities,” Rogers said. “The war in Kachin State must end, and the citizenship of the Rohingya people must be recognized. Ceasefires – an end to active fighting – are not enough, because without a political solution there can be no durable peace.”

He also called for a halt to the Burmese army practice of forced labour, rape, torture, the destruction of villages, recruitment of child soldiers and killing of civilians. He said the government, the ethnic nationalities and the democracy movement must hold talks, and a political system which grants the ethnic people equal rights and a degree of autonomy must be established through dialogue.
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 10 April 2012 19:32 )  

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