Wednesday, March 4, 2009

2-7-2008 Speech at XXIII Congress of the Socialist International

XXIII Congress of the Socialist International
Athens, Greece - 30 June to 2 July 2008
Speech by Dr. Tint Swe
Burmese Member of Parliament
National League for Democracy (NLD)

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Secretary General, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am extremely grateful to SI providing this privilege to speak a few words about unfortunate Burmese people. Burma is going through a great trial today. As you all know, about two months ago, a powerful cyclone swept lower Burma leaving almost 133,000 people dead or missing, affecting an estimated 2.5 million people, and causing untold damage to the vital rice producing and fisheries zones in the country. If rice cannot be replanted this month in the farms that are now flooded and contaminated by sea water, experts predict food shortages and economic problems.

Burma today is in desperate need of not only international aid but also good and effective leadership to recover. But we unfortunately do not have one now. The Burmese generals did nothing serious to help the cyclone victims, but their energy and attention were on the holding of a sham referendum that would legitimize military rule. Despite the seriousness of the trouble the country was in, the Burmese generals have refused to let international relief experts and workers from entering the country to do their work. More people probably could have been saved with had the Burmese generals cared to.

In response to the cyclone, our party -- the National League for Democracy (NLD) -- joined in the relief efforts but in modest scale of mobilizing its humanitarian assistance unit and started delivering aid and other essentials to the cyclone victims. Many other democracy activists and outspoken critics of the military junta, who were keeping low after taking part in the Saffron Revolution by monks, came out into the open to help the cyclone victims. But the Burmese generals are taking advantage of the situation to arrest and detain them. Several of them have already been detained. Man-made disaster follows.

The military also continue to harass and intimidate our party. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest was unlawfully extended again one more year just before her birthday even though the law under which she was detained does not allow detention for more than five years. When NLD decided to celebrate the 63rd birthday of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on 19 June, trucks carrying thugs affiliated to the military regime arrived. While doves are being released to celebrate the event, the thugs physically attacked NLD members and dragged several of them on to the trucks and drove away. They are still being detained.

Mr. Chairman:
What I am trying to convey here is that politically speaking, the Burmese generals are as vindictive and uncompromising as ever. Recently, there was a major reshuffle in the military with many top generals being dismissed. But it is not for a change for good. It is believed that the commanders are being prepared for the elections that the junta has scheduled for 2010.

Before that referendum, the Ministry of Defense issued a "Special Order" from the senior general to all military commanders that the referendum and the elections were a "Great Battle" that must be won at all cost. Military commanders were given a free hand to resort to "all available means" to "eliminate" elements opposed to the referendum.

The NLD and ethnic political parties have dismissed the referendum results because of the rampant dirty tricks, coercion, intimidation, and harassment by authorities against the people during the process. We urge you not to endorse the referendum result and upcoming election. This is NLD’s position.

Ladies and Gentlemen:
The troubling aspect of the political situation in Burma is that it is the people in charge of the country who are committing the crimes against the people. We welcome the European Parliament for calling for a case against Burma ’s generals to be referred to the International Criminal Court, on charges of crimes against humanity. Our Burmese women group (WLB) also has welcomed the unanimous adoption of UNSC resolution 1820 on sexual violence in conflict, which happened on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday 19th June. We support the call on UNSC to consider referring Burmese generals in power to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crime and crimes against humanity.

In such a small country Burma where 3,000 political prisoners including 18 elected Members of Parliament imprisoned there is no legal means that political parties can pursue to see justice done. That is the reason why party members like us are needed to take our case to the international community and make our appeals at international forums like this. And, we are hoping that the attendees at this conference will take our appeals to heart and help the people of Burma by heeding our calls. The “regime change” is the call for Burma today. We want UN special envoy Mr. Gambari’s visit result oriented rather than business as usual.

Mr. Chairman:
Before I state our appeals, I would like to express heartfelt thanks to all governments, international agencies, non-governmental organizations, and individuals who are helping the people of Burma in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. EU and all donor countries should strongly address needs of transparency, accountability and good-governance before pledges of aid package for reconstruction phase after end of relief efforts.

Recommendations
o Given the extreme reluctance of the Burmese regime to extend its full cooperation to world nations, international agencies, and INGOs in the relief and rehabilitation efforts after the cyclone, governments and international agencies should act collectively to help the people of Burma under "Responsibility to Protect" Doctrine.

o Since the Burmese junta has only been furthering its political ambitions and eliminating democracy elements, sustained efforts by governments are needed globally to free Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and political prisoners and remind the generals of their gross violation of human rights.

o International financial institutions must be urged not to resume grants and loans to the Burmese regime under the present circumstances since the generals have been trying to profit from cyclone devastation by seeking billions of dollars in aid and doing very little to help the people.

o All member nations of the UN Security Council must act to help resolve the problem of restoring democracy and human rights in Burma . All self-respecting UN Security Council nations must vote in favor of measures aimed at improving the situation in Burma and protect the people from the crimes committed by the generals.

It is encouraging that among the SI delegates there are representatives from many members of UN Security Council. China , Russia , United Kingdom , France , the USA , South Africa , Italy , Panama , Belgium , Croatia , and Costa Rica : Burma needs your helping hand, please!

Ladies and Gentlemen:
On behalf of the people of Burma , I really appreciate each and every one of you for selecting our leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as an honorary President. Thank you. This news has been broadcast by Burmese language radios and hopefully she could listen to. She will be proud of you. Burma needs new international approach and resolute strategy. I call for strongest ever resolutions and actions by the SI forums so that NLD will be able to become full fledged member of SI community.

Thank you very much!

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