Local MP calls for Government to toughen up sanctions on Burma

November 1, 2007 9:41 AM

Monks continue to protest against their military regime

Mark Hunter, Member of Parliament for the Cheadle constituency and Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Deputy Spokesperson, called for the Government to toughen up sanctions on the Burmese military Junta in the light of continued human rights abuses and persecution of religious and political protesters by the regime.

Speaking from the front bench during an adjournment debate on the current situation in Burma, Mark drew attention to the continued arrests, illegal detentions and reports of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners brought to light by investigations by Amnesty International and other human rights organisations.

On this issue Mr Hunter said "The situation in Burma is still desperate and the world should not forget about it. Arrests continue, the dead are still being burned and buried and the numbers of people who were killed during the peaceful demonstrations remains unclear.

The humanitarian conditions in the country are bleak. There are hundreds of thousands of Internally Displaced Persons, as a result of forced displacement, fear of violence and political, ethnic and religious persecution. Fully 25% of Burma's population currently live below the UN-agreed poverty line of $1 per day and one in ten children die before they reach their fifth birthday.

Both the brave pro-democracy demonstrators and the ordinary citizens of Burma are all depending on the international community to act, and we must ensure that they are not disappointed.

We need to be putting the utmost pressure on the regime to ensure that they change their ways to follow international rules and human rights standards. The Government needs to be pushing the EU to keep up the pressure on the regime through new sanctions on a tight time line."

During the debate Mr Hunter called for the EU to implement the sanctions on the timber, gems and precious metals trades quickly and effectively. He said that the EU needs to ensure that they include goods from Burma that are processed in third countries, such as gems that are being polished and cut in other countries on their way to the EU. Mr Hunter also called for the Government to support future sanctions on the lucrative Burmese oil and gas industries and a time line timeline for these sanctions so that if international demands aren't met by the Burmese regime the agreed EU investment ban and other sanctions could be introduced quickly and effectively putting further pressure on the regime.

Speaking after the debated Mr Hunter said: "A strong message needs to be sent to the Burmese regime. They say that they are co-operating with the UN and EU, and yet will not release the political prisoners being held. They will not even publish the numbers of people being held and will not allow access to them by an independent assessor - this is totally unacceptable."

Acting on information provided by the Burma Campaign UK, Mr Hunter also challenged the Foreign Office Minister Meg Munn, who responded in the debate, for failing to release the names of UK businesses trading with Burma because of issues of commercial confidentiality.

On this issue Mr Hunter said: "These companies need to be held to account. Surely the public interest in this case overrides commercial confidentiality; people have a right to know if businesses they are buying goods from are investing in a cruel military regime. The Government needs to show here that they are not just spouting empty rhetoric."

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