Strong UN action against ongoing crackdown is needed to promote regional peace and securityFor Immediate Release
Vanessa Parra, 202-828-0110 x225;
UN Security Council Must Condemn Burma Violence
Strong UN Action against Ongoing Crackdown is Needed to Promote Regional Peace and Security
Washington, DC - Refugees International urged the UN Security Council today to promote peace and security in southeast Asia by condemning the Burmese military regime's violent and oppressive actions against peaceful demonstrators in the country. On the day of the briefing by Ibrahim Gambari, the Secretary-General's Special Advisor on Burma, Refugees International urged the international community to heed Mr. Gambari's call to address the root causes of the demonstrations, and advocated steps to ensure that the Burmese people receive humanitarian assistance, including food and health care. Refugees International also called for a Security Council delegation to travel to Burma.
"Although the situation appears to be calming down, strong, public UN Security Council action on Burma is needed before the political unrest and humanitarian situation deteriorate further and threaten regional stability," said Joel Charny, Vice President for Policy of Refugees International. "For decades, the Burmese military regime's repressive policies have displaced millions of people from their homes with severe humanitarian consequences both in Burma and in the wider region. Strong UN condemnation and a Security Council delegation to Burma would send a signal that the UN will only support activities that increase peace and security in the country, not violent activities that destabilize it."
The protests in Rangoon have dramatically spotlighted the political struggle against the Burmese military government, but a humanitarian emergency continues in the east of the country where the government is fighting a brutal war against ethnic groups seeking greater autonomy. No less than half a million people are displaced inside eastern Burma alone, and the numbers of displaced people in the rest of the country are unknown. More than a million people have fled to the neighboring countries of Thailand, Malaysia, India, Bangladesh and China in search of asylum. While current events have not yet created new waves of mass displacement, there are concerns that people still in hiding could eventually make their way to the Thai border. Refugees International urged the government of Thailand to keep its borders open and allow Burmese to seek asylum.
Refugees International continued its call for the international community to ensure that humanitarian assistance, including food and health care, be provided in Burma, preferably through non-governmental channels. Japan is considering reducing its humanitarian funding to Burma, and the World Food Program announced it has the funding to reach only 200,000 out of 500,000 targeted for assistance. Such shortfalls will only lead to further suffering of the Burmese people.
"Humanitarian assistance that reaches people in need should be exempt from international embargoes. Japan, the U.S. and other governments should be increasing their funding for humanitarian programs right now, not cutting them. The Burmese people are already suffering from the policies of the military government and should not be dealt a second blow by being deprived of vital assistance such as food and health care," Charny continued. "Without increased international aid, the situation in Burma will continue to deteriorate, with severe consequences for regional security."
Refugees International urged the U.S. to take the concrete, immediate step of waiving its current restrictions on humanitarian work inside Burma in order to support emergency programs responding to the current situation.
Refugees International also stated that the UN Security Council should threaten sanctions that target the income and freedom to travel of the Burmese leadership if clear benchmarks towards democratization and national reconciliation are not met, but acknowledged that Security Council members such as China and Russia were unlikely to agree to such action.
Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises. In June 2006, the organization released Ending the Waiting Game: Strategies for Responding to Internally Displaced People in Burma
, a comprehensive report urging increased international assistance inside Burma. For more information, go to http://www.refugeesinternational.org/burma