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Bolton Statement on the Situation in Burma

Statement on the Situation in Burma

Ambassador John R. Bolton, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
Remarks to the Security Council
New York City
September 29, 2006


The Security Council's agreement on September 15 to place Burma on its agenda was an historic step. It demonstrated to both the people of Burma and to the regime the growing international concern over the welfare of the Burmese people and the regime's repressive policies and the serious implications that the deteriorating situation has for the peace and security of Southeast Asia.

On September 18, Mrs. Bush held a roundtable on Burma here in New York with experts in the areas of transnational and political issues, human rights and humanitarian affairs. Eyewitnesses to the tragedy in Burma and other experts painted a grim picture.

Burma has one of the most severe HIV/AIDS epidemics in Asia, with an estimated 360,000 cases, but the regime actually hinders the work of international and local NGOs trying to address the problem.

Through forced relocations and conflict with ethnic minority groups, the regime continues to compel Burmese to seek refuge in neighboring countries -- now around 200,000 persons -- and renders up to one million internally displaced. The regime has not ended its forced labor practices, in violation of ILO standards, nor has it made sufficient efforts to address in any meaningful way it's trafficking in persons problem.

Burma is also now the second largest producer of opium in the world and a primary source for amphetamines in Southeast Asia.

We are hearing that the fact that the Security Council cares about Burma has gotten through to the Burmese people in spite of all regime efforts to block it, and has given them new hope. Pro-democracy groups and organizations promoting national reconciliation welcomed the Council's decision to place Burma on its permanent agenda.

It is important that the Council now give the greatest possible support to the Secretary General's good offices mission. This support is especially vital because, since U/SYG Gambari's last report to the Council on May 31, the regime has done absolutely nothing to respond to the modest requests for reform he made during his previous visit.

On the contrary, they responded to his request for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners by releasing one political prisoner but extending ASSK's detention for another year and leaving over a thousand others still imprisoned. There has been no progress in establishing a meaningful, transparent and fully inclusive political dialogue, easing restrictions on NGOs, or ending the military offensives and accompanying human rights violations against ethnic minorities. Given this situation, we would like to ask Mr. Gambari about his goals and expectations for his prospective trip to Burma. The United States is deeply troubled by reports of the detention and questioning of democracy activists Min Ko Naing (MIN KO NAYNG), Ko Ko Gyi (KO KO JEE) and Htay Kway (TAY CHWAY) by the Burmese junta on September 27. This is an apparent attempt on the part of the regime to intimidate and silence those who are working to promote freedom, respect for human rights and democracy in Burma. We call for their immediate and unconditional release.

We welcome the report submitted last night in Geneva by Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Sergio Paolo Pinheiro, which is additional confirmation of the serious condition of human rights in Burma. We take particular note of his references to the unjustified detention of opposition party leaders, the steady erosion of the space allowed for civic and democratic institutions, and the suffering caused by continued military assaults on ethnic minority groups.

We believe that it is important that the international community speak with one voice to the Burmese regime on the need for it to seek democratic reforms, to end its assault on the ethnic minorities who make up the diverse peoples of Burma, to do more to prevent the trafficking of human beings and illicit drugs over its borders, and to allow the international community to allow it to address the dangerous health and infectious disease situation in the country in the interest of its people and of regional stability, all of which are threats to international peace and security.

We urge those who did not support the inclusion of Burma on the UNSC agenda to work with the rest of the Council to achieve consensus on sending this message to the Burmese regime.

The regime should understand that the Security Council believes that the time has come for the suffering of the Burmese people to end and for democratic change to begin for the benefit of all the Burmese people and peace and stability in the region.

We intend to work for a Security Council resolution later this year. As part of this effort, we will consult fully with other members of the Council, and hope all of them can support a resolution at the appropriate time.

Released on September 29, 2006


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