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Burma: death of Dr Michael Aris.

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30 March 1999



“The Burmese military regime’s heartlessly cynical attitude toward the illness and death of Dr Michael Aris, husband of Burmese democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has been entirely in keeping with its odious character”, the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Laurie Brereton, said today.


“Aung San Suu Kyi’s courage and dignity at this time of great personal sadness is an inspiration to all who support the cause of democracy and respect for human rights in Burma.”


“Sadly the Howard Government’s conspicuous lack of response is characteristic of a government which has lost what little interest it may have had in encouraging political freedoms and human rights in Burma.”


“Burma’s military junta has persistently defied international opinion, refused to engage in dialogue with pro-democracy opposition groups, and violated human rights and democratic freedoms on an appalling scale.”


“Belated words of sympathy from Foreign Minister Downer will be no substitute for real pressure on the Burmese regime to enter into serious negotiations with the National League for Democracy and undertake necessary political and economic reform.”


“In the absence of any significant improvement in human rights conditions and progress toward establishment of democratic freedoms, Labor has for more than two years urged the Howard Government to impose the following sanctions:


·  actively discourage Australian trade with Burma, including closure of the Austrade office in Rangoon, discourage Australian companies from doing business in Burma, and ban new Australian investment in Burma;


·  actively discourage Australian citizens from visiting Burma for business and tourism;


·  suspend the issue of visas for visits to Australia by Burmese officials and other persons associated with the military regime; and

·  put the Burmese military regime on notice that diplomatic relations will be downgraded in the event of further deterioration of the human rights situation.”


“Like the South African government at the time of apartheid, Burma’s military rulers should be treated as a pariah regime. But the Howard Government has imposed no sanctions, instead continuing its totally ineffectual dialogue with the Burmese junta.”


“Sanctions by Australia would send an important political message, not only to the Burmese military, but also to the world community, and would be a significant contribution to international efforts to advance human rights and democratic freedoms in Burma."


“The Howard Government’s persistent refusal to take any concrete measures against the Burmese military regime leaves its professed commitment to human rights exposed as little more than empty rhetoric.”



Contact: Philip Dorling (02) 6277 4717 or 0416 203 058