Friday, January 11, 2008

Press Statement by Hon Larry Bagnell, MP

Press Statement by Hon Larry Bagnell, MP

Chairman Canadian Parliamentary Friends of Burma
Embargoed for 1 pm (Pacific Time), January 11th, 2008

Vancouver - I have just returned from a week-long trip to the Thai-Burmese border. The aim of my trip was to help support the people of Burma in their struggle for democracy, and to find out what else Canada could do to support this struggle.

On this trip I met with Burmese opposition groups and alliances, ethnic nationalities, activists, environmental groups, women’s groups, students, labour groups, Dr. Cynthia Maung, monks, ex-political prisoners, deserters from the regime’s army, and NGO aid groups supporting refugees and internally displaced. I also spent a day at a refugee camp on the border.

There were a number of common themes that I heard from these groups:

Despite the brutal crackdown on the September uprising, I was impressed by the strong spirit of resistance of the people of Burma, and the increasing strength of the opposition organizations and their will to cooperate.

I learned that, though it may appear to the international community that the worst of the violence is over in Burma, atrocities in the ethnic states including rape, forced displacement, forced labour and extrajudicial killings are going on daily.

I heard the desire for the UN to continue and intensify their efforts to ensure that the Burmese military regime immediately enters into dialogue with the opposition National League for Democracy and ethnic nationalities, as well as increase pressure to cease the regime’s human rights abuses and atrocities.

I was encouraged to be presented the draft of a future constitution for a federal union of Burma. I was even more impressed about the inclusive process of constitutional development for a future democratic Burma, which includes all the major opposition and ethnic groups.

Another recurring theme was that Burma’s opposition are looking for much more concrete support from ASEAN and nations of the region.

I heard that planned trans-national pipelines and huge dams on the Salween and other rivers, funded by foreign investment, would deprive Burma’s people of their resources and provide a huge increase in revenues to the dictatorship. This will allow them to buy more weapons to further oppress the people, and lead to massive displacements, forced labour, and other human rights abuses.

The people I met expressed support for Canada’s humanitarian aid to Burma and increased economic sanctions against the regime. However, after hearing about the continuing atrocities and suffering in Burma during my trip, I am even more committed to working towards further sanctions and humanitarian aid by Canada and the rest of the international community in order to reduce this suffering and restore democracy to Burma.

I will be convening a meeting of the Parliamentary Friends of Burma when Parliament returns, to discuss the various suggestions by the Burmese people and their organisations as to how we can do more to help this tragic situation.

Source: Canadian Friends of Burma (CFOB)

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