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Exiled Burmese MP seeks NZ help

Exiled Burmese MP seeks NZ help

An exiled Burmese MP, Teddy Buri, arrived in New Zealand yesterday to seek this country’s support for pressure on the Burmese military regime to release democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi and restore democracy.

He was one of the MPs elected in Burma’s last free election, in 1990, when the country’s 45 million people voted overwhelmingly for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD). The military regime refused to allow the new MPs to take their seats. Many were arrested and others, including Mr Buri, have since fled the country. He now chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of the government-in-exile, the National Council of the Union of Burma (NCUB), in Bangkok, Thailand.

He is in New Zealand for six days with Dr Myint Cho, who spent many years as a medical doctor in the liberated areas and refugee camps along the Burmese-Thai border and is now director of the NCUB’s office in Sydney.

Their visit comes as pressure mounts on the military regime over its latest arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi in northern Burma on May 30. The 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner is still in Rangoon’s infamous Insein Jail.

On July 15 the US Congress voted to ban imports of Burmese clothing and textiles, in addition to a ban on new US investments in Burma which has been in place since 1997. The European Union has also tightened its sanctions against the regime.

However, sanctions have been ineffective as long as Burma can trade freely with its neighbours, especially China and Thailand, which maintain profitable business relationships and turn a blind eye to the drug trade. (Burma is the world’s largest producer of opium drugs). New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff, who met with a delegation of Burmese refugees in Auckland in June, was among those pressing for action when he attended a meeting of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) in Cambodia later that month. On June 17, Asean formally urged the regime to release Aung San Suu Kyi. But the association declined to impose trade sanctions.

Mr Buri and Dr Cho will meet Progressive MP Matt Robson in his Otara electorate office at 11am today (Monday). They will meet Conservation Minister Chris Carter at 5.30pm on Thursday, and will attend the annual general meeting of the New Zealand Refugee Council, which Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel is also scheduled to attend, in Auckland on Thursday night.

They will address a public meeting at the Trade Union Centre, 147 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn, at 7.30pm on Wednesday night (June 20).

They will spend Friday in Wellington, where they will address a lunchtime forum at the Development Resource Centre on the 6th floor of PSA House, Aurora Tce, at midday. They leave for Sydney on Saturday.

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