Monday, June 2, 2008

Canberra urged to uphold vow to act on Burma crimes

BURMESE exiles in Australia are pressing the Federal Government to push for Burma's military junta to be charged in the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity, a move that Labor supported during last year's election campaign.

During that campaign, Burmese activist Myint Cho received a letter from then opposition leader Kevin Rudd recognising the "tremendous courage" of the Burmese protesting against the country's dictatorship.

"International law has been repeatedly violated in Burma and international law should be used in response," Mr Rudd told Dr Cho.

"Labor … also believes it is time to request the UN Security Council to authorise the International Criminal Court to commence investigations into Burma's leaders for crimes against humanity."

The detention of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi for more than a decade, and the prosecution of political opponents, clearly established a case for the regime to answer, Mr Rudd wrote. "The international rule of law … will be rendered meaningless if we leave it on the bookshelves of The Hague instead of activating it in defence of human rights."

But such a prosecution is unlikely. Burma does not recognise the International Criminal Court and charging its leader would require a unanimous decision by members of the United Nations Security Council. China, a Security Council member, is an ally of Burma.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said that international legal action against Burma was not a high priority for Australia or other countries given cyclone Nargis and the continuing humanitarian crisis in the country.

"However, we continue to enforce travel and financial sanctions against specific individuals in the regime as well as making known our strong view about the ongoing detention of Aung San Suu Kyi," Mr Smith said. "Progress toward democracy and respect for human rights in Burma will only happen with the participation of all political players in a genuine, transparent process supported by the international community, including members of the Security Council."

Dr Cho said that Mr Rudd and Labor's former foreign affairs spokesman, Robert McClelland, had both indicated that the junta members should be taken before the international court.

"I strongly believe that the Labor Government should take that kind of promise seriously," he said.

Burma's generals would never listen to international opinion or develop respect for human rights, he said.

"This is the last option to take action against the regime.

"We need International Criminal Court action against the Burmese generals," Dr Cho said.

"The top generals do not travel outside Burma because they fear that sort of action."
--Source: The Age

Junta Defends Cyclone Response as 'Prompt,' with Schools Set to Reopen

Burma's military government said it planned to reopen schools Monday in several areas still reeling from a catastrophic cyclone, a move that international aid groups fear could be harmful to the children.

More than a week ago, the junta agreed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's request that foreign relief workers be allowed in to the areas worst affected by the storm in the Irrawaddy Delta, after they had been initially barred. But the regime has been slow to implement the agreement, allowing some in but limiting their numbers and adding conditions.

--Read More: here

Malaysia presses Myanmar to allow ASEAN militaries help the cyclone-devastated country

(Associated Press WorldStream Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) SINGAPORE_Malaysia urged Myanmar's junta Sunday to let Southeast Asian militaries help deliver aid to cyclone victims, an unprecedented plea for foreign intervention in a region where nations generally stay out of each other's affairs.

The appeal by Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak at an international security conference came after Myanmar's Deputy Defense Minister Aye Myint used the forum to claim that his government acted promptly to provide relief in the aftermath of the May 2-3 Cyclone Nargis.

But Najib said the tragedy was of such a huge scale that the toll could surpass that of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in Indonesia, where about 167,000 people died.

--Read More: here

Macho move would make Burma's plight even worse

Kouchner's call has generated an intense debate in policy, advocacy and media circles that is worth parsing into moral, legal, political and practical components. There is also the question of which is more damaging to R2P in the longer term: invoking or ignoring it in the context of Burma since Cyclone Nargis.

--Read More: here

Gates hits at 'criminal neglect' by Burma junta

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, yesterday accused Burma's military rulers of "criminal neglect" of their people, amid criticism that they were pushing victims of cyclone Nargis back to their devastated villages prematurely.

International aid agencies are also complaining of persistent difficulties getting clearance to work in the stricken Irrawaddy delta, despite the regime's promise to allow full access to "genuine humanitarian workers".

--Read More: here

Singapore volunteers tell of plight faced by Myanmar cyclone survivors

In the capital city of Yangon, except for the cracks in the ground where Cyclone Nargis had uprooted the trees, life appeared to be back to normal as people went about their business.

But just three hours away in the Irrawaddy Delta region — the “rice bowl” of Myanmar — where the May 2 cyclone hit the hardest, Singaporean volunteer Lim Hwee Sie had only one word to describe the scene: Devastation.

--Read More: here

Enough is enough

Asean must isolate the Burmese junta or be accused of complicity in the hell that Than Shwe and his junta have unleashed in Burma.

Buddhist monks beaten; a government minister directing the head of the meteorology department not to issue a public warning after India gave them a 48-hour advance warning of impending disaster; Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest extended by a year _ all heinous atrocities.

--Read More: here