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'Suspend Burma's membership from BIMSTEC'

New Delhi, Fri, 14 Nov 2008 Nava Thakuria

The BIMSTEC leadership has been exposed to inherent anger of the pro-democracy activists in India, who had demanded to review the membership of Burmese junta in the prestigious forum. Taking the advantage of the 2nd BIMSTEC summit in New Delhi, the advocacy groups had sent a memorandum demanding the suspension of the military junta until peace, justice, human rights and democracy is restored in Burma (Myanmar). Moreover, the activists for democracy urged the forum to put pressure on the military rulers of Burma for immediate release of all political prisoners including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

In a memorandum submitted to the members and leaders of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) on November 13, the Burma Centre Delhi has expressed anger that the forum largely ignored the issue of gross human rights violations by the military regime of Burma known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). It revealed that the Senior General Than Shwe led SPDC has been identified as one of the worst human rights violator in the world.

The 2nd BIMSTEC summit, which was hosted by India, was attended by the Burmese prime minister General Thein Sein, Thailand prime minister Somchal Wangsawat, Nepal prime minister Pushpa Kumar Dahal, Bhutan prime minister Jigmi V. Thinley, Sri Lankan president Mahindra Rajapaksa, Bangladesh care taker government head Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed and the Indian prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh. Mentionable that, the first BIMSTEC Summit took place in the Thai capital, Bangkok in July 2004.

Addressed to the Chairman of BIMSTEC, Pranab Mukherjee, who is the foreign minister of India, the memorandum highlighted the after affects of the tropical cyclone Nargis that devastated Burma few months back. It claimed that the Burma's military regime had converted 'a natural disaster to man-made tragedy by refusing the entry of international aid' for the millions of Burmese cyclone victims.

Nargis struck on southern Burma in May killing nearly 85, 000 people and wounding over 20,000. The United Nations estimates that it affected 2.4 million people. At the same time, over 3,00,000 water buffaloes and cows died in Irrawaddy delta and Yangon localities. But the response to the disaster by its own rulers was simply shocking.

First, the rulers couldn't provide immediate relief to the victims and secondly, they tried to prevent (and restrict) the international aid for their very own people, who were in desperate need of food, medicine and shelter.

The memorandum, the copy of which was sent to the Embassies of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Srilanka and Thailand in New Delhi, reiterated that the BIMSTEC was formed with the aims and purposes of creating an enabling environment for rapid economic development, poverty alleviation and counter-terrorism and accelerate social progress in the region, and the forum emerges as a positive symbol toward regional stability of peace and development.

It asserted that 'while the BIMSTEC official level meeting started on November 11 in New Delhi, the SPDC had sentenced 14 leading Burmese democracy activists' there. Those activists participated in the Saffron movement during September/October 2007 in Burma for which they have been sent to jails up to 65 years of imprisonment. This is an undeniable prove that SPDC ignored the basic human rights called by United Nations and International community, it said.

"We strongly believe that under the banner of regional cooperation for development of economic and social sectors prior to promotion of peace, human rights and democracy in the region is lack of any moral or ethical considerations which could even lead from bad to worst for instance in the case of Burma, where it has become a routine that innocent people are torture, arrested and killed. People were killed when they asked their wages for labours or when they try to exercise freedom of speech and movement etc…," added in the memorandum, which was forwarded by Dr. Alana Golmei, the coordinator of Burma Centre Delhi.

Speaking to this writer, Dr. Golmei also informed that they had appealed New Delhi to take initiatives for appropriate actions against the Burmese junta. Being the largest democracy in the globe, India should play an important role in restoring democracy in its neighbouring country and also releasing the Nobel laureate, Suu Kyi as early as possible, Dr. Golmei concluded.

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