OTTAWA - The Green Party of Canada urges Canada to pressure the new Burmese government to show its intent to move quickly towards a democratic state that respects the freedom of speech and the right of association and assembly. Canadian Greens also request that the UN Security Council pressure all parties in Burma to work for peace and democracy.
“The Canadian government as well as the international community needs to keep a close eye on the human rights situation in Burma,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May. “Canada should be using its diplomatic muscle to encourage Burma to become a full democracy.”
Burma has made the significant step towards democracy by electing MPs to its first Parliament in more than two decades. While elections were tilted to ensure continuing military dominance, other parties now legally exist. The nominally civilian government took power earlier this year.
Unfortunately, there appears to be very limited positive change as demonstrated by the new budget, which allocates 25% of resources to military affairs and just over 1% to health care. Even more alarming is the defection to the US this week of the second highest ranking Burmese diplomat. In his letter, he stated that he has lost hope that his country's leaders will effect democratic change in the foreseeable future.
Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace prize laureate, has continued relentlessly to fight against tyranny in a country that has been run by a hard-line military dictatorship for nearly fifty years. She was released from house arrest in November following Burma's first election in 20 years. However, her party, the National League for Democracy, was officially dissolved for failing to register for the polls. In the past few weeks, Aung San Suu Kyi has been threatened once again, this time by the new government, warning that she and her party must halt all political activities.
There are over 2200 prisoners, mostly political, who have been given up to 95 year sentences for drawing attention to social, political, and human rights abuses in Burma. Recent reports suggest that the number of political arrests has increased since the new government has taken power.
Green Party Leader, Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, urged today, “This is an opportunity for the new Burmese government to show its true intentions for democratic reform by releasing all political prisoners and confirming that Aung San Suu Kyi will not be harassed.” May added, “While women from around the world are meeting in Ottawa this week, it is disheartening to see one of the world’s bravest women under threat and Canada not speaking out.”
Aung San Suu Kyi noted in an interview with the BBC last week that the greatest abuse of human rights is fear, which because of continued military threats and actions, dominates Burmese society, acting as a barrier to economic and social progress.
Joe Foster, Green Human Rights Critic, stated, “While Canadian Greens support the trend to democracy, there can be no democracy without human rights. Freedom of speech and association is not only a basic human right but is an essential ingredient in helping to build an open, progressive and democratic society.”
Canadians may also wish to support the petition circulated by Avaaz at: http://www.avaaz.org/en/stand_with_aung_san_suu_kyi/?vl
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