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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 6812

Mr KELVIN THOMSON (7:25 PM) —My voice tonight is somewhat diminished by a cold, but I will do everything I can to speak on behalf of the millions of Burmese who have no voice. I commend the member for Page for moving this motion and I commend the other members who have spoken in support of it. For many years Burma’s regime, the State Peace and Development Council, has shown a profound disregard for the human rights and democratic aspirations of the Burmese people. The Burmese regime has presided over the stark deterioration of the Burmese economy. Burma has become a poor and isolated country.

In 1988, students, professionals and others launched a nationwide uprising aimed at bringing an end to authoritarian rule. Millions of people courageously marched on the streets, calling for freedom and democracy. The military responded by gunning down thousands of demonstrators and imprisoning thousands more in one of South-East Asia’s most bloody episodes. The most recognisable face of Burma, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been in and out of house arrest and prison since 1988. Her transgression, her crime, was to lead the National League for Democracy to a decisive election victory in 1990. She has not been convicted of any crime but has been held as a threat to national security. Faced with having to release her, even under its own draconian security law, the regime has now brought spurious charges relating to a minor incident.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been formally charged with breaching the terms of her detention because a US citizen intruded into her compound. There is immense concern that her arrest and current trial is simply a device to extend her detention. This trial stands condemned by the international community. I welcome the strong statements in this respect from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its member governments. This latest outrage shows yet again that the Burmese regime remains utterly indifferent to the views of the international community and human rights standards.

The military regime continues its brutal domination over its people. Numerous governments, non-government organisations, United Nations bodies and international organisations have documented Burma’s widespread problems: intense human rights violations and the complete deterioration of health care, education and a functioning economy. The world further witnessed the Burmese government’s human rights violations in September 2008 during the ‘saffron revolution’. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in peaceful demonstration, led by Buddhist monks, demanding peace and freedom in their country—only to be countered with force. Thousands were imprisoned, hundreds were killed and monasteries were raided. The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma reported last year that he had received information indicating that the military regime had destroyed, forcibly displaced or forced the abandonment of more than 3,000 villages in eastern Burma, where ethnic minorities predominate. At least one million people fled their homes as a result of the attacks, escaping as refugees and internally-displaced persons.

Organisations such as Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First and Amnesty International have reported on the crimes against humanity and war crimes committed under the rule of Burma’s military regime, including the recruitment of tens of thousands of child soldiers and attacks on ethnic minority civilians. In December 2008, the UN General Assembly adopted by a vote of nearly four to one a resolution calling on Burma to free all political prisoners, including detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and criticising the human rights record of the Burmese regime. I raise my voice in support of that resolution, in support of her release from detention and in support of the release of all political prisoners in Burma.

In closing, I will refer to the recommendations of Amnesty International in its report, Crimes against humanity in eastern Myanmar:

Put an immediate halt to all violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by government forces and aligned militias, including the targeting of civilians and civilian objects for attack, indiscriminate attacks, extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings …

Ensure that all acts violating international human rights and humanitarian law are subject to prompt, independent, and impartial investigations, and that suspected perpetrators, including those suspected of ordering these acts, regardless of rank, are brought to justice—

(Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. AR Bevis)—Order! The time allowed for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.