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Cablegate: Usg Human Rights Strategy for Burma

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 RANGOON 000248

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV, DRL/CRA, AND DRL/PHD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PHUM BM
SUBJECT: USG HUMAN RIGHTS STRATEGY FOR BURMA

REF: STATE 13796

1. (SBU) The following draft report is provided in response
to tasking contained in reftel. The text of the report has
also been sent by e-mail to EAP/BCLTV.

2. (SBU) Begin report text:

Embassy Rangoon Human Rights Strategy for Burma

The United States has staked out a position in Burma as a
resolute advocate of human rights and rapid political change.
We have also worked with like-minded countries to maintain
maximum international pressure on Burma, pending reform.
That pressure includes continued trade, investment, and
travel sanctions; the denial of any form of aid support, with
the single exception of humanitarian assistance; continued
public criticism of Burma; support for democratic movements
opposed to the current dictatorship; and public diplomacy
programs focused on democratic values, human rights, and good
governance. It also includes support for international
efforts to foster change in Burma, through the missions of UN
Special Envoy Razali and UN Special Rapporteur on Human
Rights Pinheiro, as well as the efforts of the ILO, the ICRC,
and other international organizations.

Sanctions: In coordination with the European Union and other
states, the United States has imposed comprehensive sanctions
on Burma. They include an arms embargo; a ban on all new
U.S. investment in Burma; the suspension of all bilateral
aid, including counternarcotics assistance; the withdrawal of
GSP privileges, the denial of OPIC and EXIMBANK programs;
visa restrictions on Burma's senior government officials; and
a hold on all new lending or grant programs by the World
bank, the IMF, the ADB, and other international financial
institutions. We have also maintained our representation in
Burma at the Charge d'Affaires level since 1990.

Public Criticism: The United States has co-sponsored annual
resolutions at the UN General Assembly and the UN Commission
on Human Rights that highlight and draw international
attention to the continued human rights violations in Burma.
We also support the ILO's unprecedented decision which calls
on all ILO members to review their relations with Burma in
view of its "widespread and systematic" use of forced labor,
as well as the ILO's efforts since then to bring the Burmese
government in compliance with its obligations. Annual U.S.
reports on human rights and religious freedom in Burma have
also painted a grim picture of continuing violations here.

Public Scrutiny: The United States has encouraged increased
public scrutiny of the human rights situation in Burma. We
have supported the missions of UN Special Envoy Razali, who
has traveled to Burma eight times since 2000, and the mission
of UN Special Rapporteur Pinheiro, who has visited Burma four
times. Their combined efforts have resulted in the release
of over 500 political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi,
additional freedoms for the political opposition
(particularly in regard to ability to travel), and the
re-opening of opposition political party offices. We have
also encouraged ICRC's efforts to improve the conditions of
Burma's prisons, facilitate the release of political
prisoners, and protect vulnerable ethnic populations. ICRC
now has over 40 expatriate staff in Burma and access to many
previously restricted areas along the Thai border. In
addition, we have urged all UN agencies to join UNHCR (now
active among the Rohingya Muslim minority in northern Rakhine
State) in providing protection services and advocacy on human
rights issues in areas where they are active. Finally, we
have pushed the Burmese government to accept visits by
reputed international human rights organizations, such as
Amnesty International, which completed its first visit to
Burma in February 2003.

Support for the Democratic Opposition: The United States
annually provides $6.5 million in support for the Burmese
democratic opposition. These funds are programmed through
the National Endowment for Democracy, among others, and are
used for the collection and dissemination of information on
democracy and human rights, and the support of democratic
groups, including women's, labor, and ethnic groups, in Burma
and along Burma's borders. Specific activities include
support for newspapers, radio broadcasts, and investigations
of human rights violations, as reported by refugees and
exiles.

Advocacy: The U.S. Mission in Burma has been a persistent and
effective advocate for human rights. We maintain frequent
contacts with the political opposition, including the
National League for Democracy and Aung San Suu Kyi, and
regularly consult with a range of opposition leaders
regarding initiatives that will affect the struggle for
democracy in Burma. We maintain similar contacts with
representatives of Burma's ethnic minorities who have been
struggling for a voice in Burma's government for more than
half a century. We have also pressed the government in
strong and public terms to honestly and effectively
investigate allegations of human rights abuses. In 2002,
when the Burmese government categorically denied that its
soldiers had been involved in any of the rapes detailed in a
report entitled "License to Rape," the Mission's Charge'
called the government to account at a public press conference
and continued to press for an investigation of the charges by
an independent international team. Those efforts resulted in
continued international attention to the case, continued
government investigations of the charges, and a government
invitation to UN Special Rapporteur Pinheiro to investigate
the case. The U.S. Mission in Burma has also spoken out
firmly in support of the political rights of the democratic
opposition. When Aung San Suu Kyi was harassed by
government-affiliated organizations during a tour of Rakhine
State, the U.S. Mission coordinated statements with Great
Britain, among others, which called the government to account.

Public Diplomacy: We continue to focus public diplomacy
programs on democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and
good governance. In FY 2002, the Embassy's Public Affairs
section spent $205,000 on speaker programs, exchange
programs, and publications and other information outreach.
In FY 2003, we expanded our international visitors program by
$105,000 to include six additional grantees from civil
society organizations active in their communities. In
addition, the Public Affairs section's direct teaching
program offered tuition waivers worth $8,000 to 33 students
denied the opportunity to study elsewhere because of their
political beliefs. These programs target individuals from
humanitarian aid NGO's, the political opposition, religious
and ethnic groups, the press, and academia, with the aim of
assisting civil society organizations in developing their own
effective advocacy on democracy and human rights issues in
Burma.

Addendum: USG-funded Human Rights and Democracy Programs in
Burma (FY 2002)

Burma Earmark -- $6.5 million, including

The New Era Journal; $140,000

Support and Training for Democratic Opposition; implemented
by the International Republican Institute; $470,000

Building Capacity for a Free Burma; implemented by the
National Democratic Institute for International Affairs;
$122,535

The Burma Fund; $450,000

The Democratic Voice of Burma radio; $160,000

Promoting Labor's Involvement in Burma's Democratic Struggle;
implemented by the American Center for International Labor
Solidarity; $425,033.

End report text.
Martinez

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