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Industrial: Just Doing It
Unions: Breaking Into the Boys Club
Activists: Making the Hard Yards
Bad Boss: In the Pooh
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International: Rangoon Rumble
Education: Blackboard Jungle
Review: From Weakness to Strength
The Locker Room
A Recipe for Conflict
After the Accident
Cuba - the Debate Continues
Greetings from Japan
Burma Military Junta Attacks NLD Supporters
On 30 May 2003 a junta-supported mob attacked Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and a motorcade of National League for Democracy (NLD) leaders and members in northern Burma. Military generals arrested Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and approximately 50 NLD members; furthermore closing down all NLD offices and universities in Burma to prevent further protest and anti-government opposition. Some opposition sources estimate up to 70 NLD supporters were killed, whilst at least 94 individuals remain unaccounted for and are listed as "disappeared."
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Detained
Reports indicate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was held for some time in a two-room hut under deplorable conditions at the infamous Insein Prison, and that she has now been moved to an undisclosed location. The military regime appears to be detaining her under Section 10(a) of a 1975 State Protective Act designed to "safeguard the state against the dangers of subversive elements" allowing up to five years imprisonment without a legal charge.
Australian Government Position on Burma
Members of the international community have taken direct action to pressure the military regime of Burma following the events of 30 May. The Australian government currently endorses a policy of "constructive engagement" with the Burmese military junta, in addition to an on-going program of human rights training in Burma. Australia insists on making no changes or threats of changes to its Burma policy.
Downer: Friend of Burma
At the recent ASEAN meeting of foreign ministers in Phnom Penh, Australia's foreign minister Alexander Downer condemned the detainment of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and urged her release, but in contrast to many other international actors, he has not backed up his words with actions. The attitude of Burma's military regime towards Australia is summarised well by U Saw Hla Min, Burma's ambassador to Cambodia, who described Downer by commenting, "Mr. Downer, he is our friend."
Australia's Weak Response: Human Rights Workshops Temporarily Suspended
Following the detention of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Downer has temporarily suspended, rather than canceled, the human rights workshops the Australian government funds in Burma. These workshops involve Australian lawyers teaching civil servants about international conventions; however, the workshops have attracted no supporters except Australian officials and Burma's generals. The workshops are the brainchild of Downer himself, and he insists the workshops will resume "as soon as practicable." His refusal to threaten permanent withdrawal of the workshops leaves him, not Burma, isolated in the world.
The International Community Responds
Many other actors in the international community have taken actions for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD members. ASEAN leaders made a statement indicating they "look forward" to the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, marking the first time foreign ministers have commented directly on a member nation, and a significant departure from ASEAN stated policy.
Japan, Burma's largest donor nation, is using financial pressure to secure the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, departing from a softer position in the past. Japan will freeze new financial assistance to Burma and stop providing new overseas development assistance if Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is not released by 30 June 2003, and has asked Burma for a meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Malaysia abandoned its long-time policy of "non-interference" by calling on Burma's military officials to release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and to return to the negotiating table with the NLD.
The EU has imposed sanctions including stripping Burma of trading privileges, freezing non-humanitarian economic aid, generating a list of individuals subject to visa bans and assets freeze, restricting foreign travel for senior junta figures, a ban on military links, and an arms embargo. The UK has demanded release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi with the threat of further sanctions and called on British companies to stop trading with Burma. The US has applied restrictions on visas issued to officials from Burma and banned imports on goods manufactured in Burma and by offshore companies owned by the junta.
Call to Action
Mr Downer's refusal to take a strong stance on the deteriorating situation in Burma leaves him isolated in the international community. We urge you to write a letter to Mr. Downer asking him to join others in sending a clear message to the military junta by immediately canceling the program of human rights workshops, condemning the junta's actions against the NLD in the strongest possible terms, and demanding intervention by the UN.
For a sample letter, go to:
For further information on what unions internationally are doing to support democracy and an end to forced labour in Burma, and how you can be involved, go to:
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