Friday, May 22, 2009

Nobel Laureates Call for Arms Embargo on Burma

The Irrawaddy News

Nine Nobel Peace Prize laureates, led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday to impose an arms embargo on the Burmese military junta and urged immediate action against the false imprisonment of fellow Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

As prominent members of the PeaceJam foundation, they released a joint statement saying, “We called upon the international community to actively work to implement arms embargoes against the Burmese regime on February 19, 2008. We stand by this appeal and reiterate that call.”

In addition to the call for an arms embargo on the Burmese junta, the PeaceJam members said they were “gravely concerned about the news that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been moved to Insein Prison to face criminal charges” and referred to the trial as a “mockery.”

Besides President Arias and Archbishop Tutu, other signatories to the joint statement are Shirin Ebadi, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Wangari Mathaai, Betty Williams and Jody Williams.

Shortly after the release of the statement, two more Nobel Peace prize winners—Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and East Timor’s José Ramos-Horta— added their names to the PeaceJam petition.

The Nobel laureates also urged the Secretary-General to do everything possible to procure pro-democracy leader Suu Kyi’s immediate and unconditional release. They said they regarded Suu Kyi as an essential partner for dialogue in Burma’s national reconciliation.

The 2008 statement singled out China, Russia, India, Ukraine and Poland as providers of arms to Burma. It said many of the arms used by Burma’s military regime to retain its hold on power have been sold to the regime by foreign governments.

“This is not acceptable—no nation should sell arms to a regime that uses weapons exclusively against its own people,” the statement said.

Amnesty International urged the UN Security Council to impose a comprehensive mandatory arms embargo on Burma in 2007.

Accordingly to its statement in 2007, Burma’s military junta and its security apparatus of 400,000 armed personnel have a well documented record of serious human rights violations, especially against ethnic minority peoples.

The EU and the US imposed arms embargoes on Burma in 1988 and 1993 respectively. In 1996, the EU strengthened its arms embargo on Burma.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Monday, Win Min, a Burmese researcher in civil-military relations, said, “For the time being, an arms embargo on Burma is difficult to implement. Even if the Security Council decides to pass it, China and Russia will reject it by wielding their vetoes. However, at least it will isolate China and Russia and put pressure on them.”

On May 5, the All Burma Monks’ Alliance and the 88 Generation Students group, two prominent Burmese dissident groups fighting for democracy and human rights by peaceful means, wrote an open letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging the US to consider additional measures against the Burmese regime, including calling for a global arms embargo at the UN Security Council and targeting more regime-affiliated business cronies with financial sanctions and visa bans.

Meanwhile, on May 15, Jeremy Woodrum, the director of the US Campaign for Burma called on President Obama to renew sanctions on the regime and urged him to “immediately pursue a global arms embargo at the UN Security Council, as well as an investigation into crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by Burma's military regime.”

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