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How Can Our PM Do Business With Burma's Butchers?

November 26 2004
How can our PM do business with the butchers of Burma?

The Green Party is outraged that the Prime Minister is travelling to Asia this weekend to curry favour with one of the world's most brutal regimes.

Miss Clark is leaving for Laos on Sunday to meet with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to announce the negotiations for a free trade area encompassing ASEAN, Australia, and New Zealand. Myanmar is an ASEAN member state and will ascend to the organisation's Chair in July 2006.

"Is there anyone the Prime Minister is ashamed to be associated with?" Green Co-Leader Rod Donald asked.

"Myanmar is a textbook case of a police state, more closed, more oppressive, and more barbaric than any other country in the Asia-Pacific region. Yet Helen Clark is poised to initiate a free trade agreement that includes the Burmese military dictatorship. Has she no shame?

"In Myanmar, spies are omnipresent, political dissidents are killed, imprisoned, raped, and tortured, and 70,000 children are used as soldiers," Mr Donald said. "Almost half of the state's budget is spent on the military, while less than five per cent is spent on health and welfare, enriching and fattening the corrupt generals while leaving the Burmese people languishing in abject poverty and misery.

"Do we really want to be selling our butter, wine and wool to these despicable rulers who use children as soldiers and reject all international labour standards?

"The military regime forces people into labour to build and maintain military installations and to carry army supplies and ammunition in order to strengthen its grip over the Burmese people. Shouldn't our government be baulking at signing a preferential trade deal that will only embolden this tyrannical regime?"

Mr Donald said the Prime Minister used to understand that human rights should be put before preferential trade agreements. "Throughout the 1990s, Helen Clark spoke out against New Zealand governments which sought economic deals with repressive regimes. Now she is leading one.

"In 1998, she accused Prime Minister Jenny Shipley of bringing shame on New Zealand by choosing 'to build links to oppression while democratic voices are silenced in jail'. For five years, Helen Clark has followed in National's footsteps in doing business with butchers and it is high time she felt ashamed.

Mr Donald pointed out that a free trade deal would only benefit Myanmar's rotten regime. "When the military controls almost all facets of the economy - from the drug trade to real estate companies - free trade means providing murderers with more money to commit crimes against their own people. This is not a market economy in any shape or form. It's international political pressure and trade sanctions, not liberalisation, that's required."


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