Tue 30 Sep 2008
Filed under: Business / Trade,News
The Burmese military government on Monday urged the international community to lift “unjustified” economic sanctions that hurt the development and progress of its people.
“Unilateral sanctions have been imposed on my country,” Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win told the 63rd Session of the UN General Assembly in New York.
“These sanctions are unwarranted. Unilateral sanctions are also against international law. They are not only unfair, but also immoral. They are counter productive and deprive the country of its right to development.”
Nyan Win said economic sanctions are holding back Burma’s contribution to the international community. The United States and many EU countries have imposed economic sanctions on Burma in recent years to urge it to move toward a more democratic government and to protect human rights.
“Myanmar [Burma] has abundant land and natural resources to be able to make a meaningful contribution to energy and food security of our country and beyond. In order for us to fulfill our potential we need unfettered access to market,” he said.
Observing that his country needs modern technology and investment, Nyan Win said: “The sooner the unjust sanctions are revoked and the barriers removed, the sooner will the country be in a position to become the rice bowl of the region and a reliable source of energy.”
In an apparent dig at the Security Council, where many permanent members have been unsuccessfully trying to pass a binding resolution against the Burmese military regime, he said: “I would like to stress that attempts to initiate formal or informal discussions in the Security Council on situations that do not constitute a threat to international peace and security are contrary to the letter and spirit of the charter.”
The Foreign Minister said necessary measures are being taken to conduct the 2010 elections. “The government would make every effort to ensure that the elections will be free and fair,” he said.
Meanwhile, two Nobel Peace Prize winners, Jody Williams and Wangari Maathai, along with popular Hollywood actress-turned-activist Mia Farrow on Monday urged the UN and Asean to exert more pressure on the Burmese military regime.
During a press conference at the UN Correspondents Association at
UN headquarters in New York, the three activists expressed their dissatisfaction over the steps taken by the UN and Asean regarding the restoration of democracy in Burma, the release of political prisoners and the protection of human rights.
Fresh from a recent visit to the Thai-Burma border, Williams, Maathai and Farrow said they found the Burmese military regime is keeping the pressure on democracy activists.
“We are calling for the release of political prisoners in Burma, including Aung San Suu Kyi, the cessation of campaigns of violence against ethnic nationalities and a dialogue to real democracy in the country,” Farrow said.
“We are also calling for the delivery of humanitarian relief post Cyclone Nargis directly to the people of Burma,” she said.
The activists formed part of a fact-finding mission that visited Sudan, Eastern Chad, and the Thai-Burma border. A report on the visit along with their recommendations was released Monday during the press conference.
“We must keep up the pressure on the world’s superpower to do the right thing in Darfur and Burma-and create the conditions for long-lasting peace and democracy,” said Farrow.
Following the recent visit of Ibrahim Gambari, the special UN envoy to Burma, Williams said she supported the decision of Aung San Suu Kyi to not to meet with the UN envoy.
“Why would you meet with this guy (Gambari) and legitimize a process which is doing nothing,” she said. “I commend her for refusing this meeting.”
“This is a failed mission, why should she support it,” Williams said.
Referring to the upcoming visit of UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon to Burma later this year, she said: “I do not know, why he is going there. A visit to make a visit is worthless. If nothing comes of it, what is the point?”
The report prepared by the delegation called on the UN, Asean and other international institutions to pressure the Burmese military regime to take steps toward greater democracy-most urgently, the immediate release of all political prisoners in Burma including Aung San Suu Kyi.
They also called for a “commitment” from Asean and UN Security Council to act upon their own call for democratic reform including freedom of assembly in Burma.
The report also called for sending humanitarian aid to the people of Burma through NGOs rather than through the Burmese government.
Referring to her conversation with an Asean diplomat during her trip to the region, Williams said as much as 25 percent of the foreign aid is “removed off the top” due to foreign currency exchange.
“So, if they start taking 25 percent even before they [the military junta] start stealing, I can imagine what is actually getting to the people,” Williams said. “I think the international community should look at another mechanism in supplying the aid.”