Global MPs call for UN action on Burma

Dec 10, 2009 (DVB), More than 440 Members of Parliament around the world today marked International Human Rights Day with a call for the UN to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma.

"Such action is long overdue," said a letter signed by 442 MPs from 29 countries, which was sent today to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon. It also urged a global arms embargo against the Burmese junta.

The letter cited statistics released by the Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) that allege the Burmese army has destroyed more than 3,500 ethnic minority villages in eastern Burma since 1996, and forced 75,000 people out of their homes in 2008 alone.

Both TBBC and a panel of leading international jurists, who released the Crimes in Burma report in May, have said the situation in eastern Burma is comparable to Darfur.

"There is an urgent need for the Security Council to address this horrific condition in Burma," said the letter, initiated by two Japanese MPs, Azuma Konno and Tadashi Inuzuka, both members of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).

Historically Japan has oscillated between muted support for the Burmese junta and soft condemnation, an approach that Burma observers and human rights groups have repeatedly criticized.

The DPJ, sworn in earlier this year amid expectation that it would be sterner in its approach to the junta than the former Liberal Democratic Party, announced last month that it would be willing to provide more aid to Burma on condition that detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is released.

Signatories to the letter come from a diverse range of Asian, European, North and South American countries, including Brazil, United States, Cambodia and India.

Both the Cambodian and Indian governments have come under fire from activists who claim they are failing to adequately pressure the Burmese junta to end human rights abuses.

The letter said that despite differing policies towards investigating crimes against humanity and war crimes, "all the MPs are deeply concerned about the humanitarian conditions in Burma".

It urged the security council to "take action as it did for similar conditions in Rwanda and Darfur".

Last month a group of high-profile British MPs tabled a parliamentary motion calling for a similar UN investigation into Burma; the second time the UK parliament has been petitioned on the issue this year.

The UN, in particular the five-member security council, has also been criticized for inaction on Burma. Much of the criticism stems from conflicts of interest between China and the US; China, Burma's principal ally, has on several occasions vetoed UN resolutions calling for an end to state-sanctioned abuses in Burma.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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