by Jennifer Gold
Posted: Friday, January 26, 2007, 10:14 (GMT)
Representatives from the Chin and Kachin ethnic groups in Burma met earlier in the week with the UK Minister of Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs, Ian McCartney MP.
It was the first time that Chin and Kachin representatives have met with a UK Foreign Office minister, and the meeting lasted approximately an hour.
The delegation raised concerns about religious freedom violations in Burma, and called on the British Government to urge the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief to conduct a thorough investigation into the situation in Burma.
The delegation encouraged the British Government to call on the European Union to send a strong signal to the regime in Burma that the current human rights violations in the country are not acceptable, and that China and Russia’s veto of a UN Security Council resolution on Burma does not give the regime a green light to commit these violations.
They also called for the EU to strengthen its common position on Burma, including meaningful targeted economic sanctions, when this is reviewed in April.
The delegation urged the British Government to put pressure on China, India and ASEAN to use their influence on the regime to progress towards a peaceful solution for the country.
Sexual violence in Chin State, forced labour and the situation in Kachin State were also discussed.
Victor Biak Lian, from the National Reconciliation Programme of the Union of Burma, says: “The overwhelming message from our delegation was the need for meaningful tripartite dialogue between the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the National League for Democracy and the ethnic nationalities, but we need the international community to put pressure on the SPDC if we are to achieve this.
“We are therefore privileged to be given this time with the Minister and we thank him for his efforts in helping to bring Burma to the UN Security Council’s agenda. We hope the UK Government takes forward our proposals to help secure a peaceful future for Burma.”
Benedict Rogers, CSW’s Advocacy Officer for South Asia and author of the recent report Carrying the Cross, said: “The military regime’s campaign of restriction, discrimination and persecution against Christians in Burma, says: “Today’s meeting was very positive and we found the Minister engaging and sympathetic. The UK supported the proposed UN Security Council resolution on Burma. We therefore call on the UK to use its diplomatic influence to continue to build international efforts for change in Burma.”