WASHINGTON—Former Czech President Vaclav Havel and retired South African archbishop Desmond Tutu are calling for the United Nations Security Council to step in and demand democratic change in military-ruled Burma, citing a steady worsening of conditions there.
In a 70-page report, the two leaders compared Burma with seven other countries, including Haiti, Afghanistan, and Rwanda, in which the Security Council had previously intervened, saying the situation in the Southeast Asian country was “far worse.”
“For 15 years the government of Burma has refused to implement recommendations made by the UN and the situation is getting worse,” Havel said. “In fact, the situation in Burma is much more severe compared to other countries in which the Security Council has chosen to act in recent years.”
Jared Genser, an attorney with DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary and co-author of the report commissioned by Havel and Tutu, told RFA’s Burmese service 15 years of nonbinding international pressure on Burma’s ruling junta had failed.
The key point to emphasize is that lots has been tried over the last 15 years with numerous parties trying to intervene with the generals in Rangoon to try to achieve national reconciliation, and all of these efforts have been nonbinding.
“I think the key point to emphasize is that lots has been tried over the last 15 years with numerous parties trying to intervene with the generals in Rangoon to try to achieve national reconciliation, and all of these efforts have been nonbinding,” Genser said.
“Specifically, we do not call for sanctions and I think that’s an important point to make,” said Genser, whose report, titled “Threat to the Peace: A Call for the UN Security Council to Act in Burma,” was issued Tuesday.
“But what we do call for is requiring the junta to sit down and engage in a dialogue with the [U.N.] Secretary General, the NLD [opposition National League for Democracy], and with the ethnic leadership to achieve national reconciliation,” he said.
“We call on the military leadership of Burma to open their borders for free and easy access for UN agencies to provide humanitarian relief. We call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other prisoners,” he said.
“And we urge that the Security Council, in addition to adopting these measures, also require the Secretary General to report back to the Security Council on a regular basis about the progress that’s being made.”
The military rulers have placed democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for much of the last 16 years—the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient.
Her party won 1990 elections but was never allowed to govern. Its offices have been shut down by the military junta.
“Quiet closed-door meetings among countries in New York are no longer enough. They have failed,” said Bishop Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
“It is time for the UN Security Council to act. In fact, it is past due. This report quite clearly evidences the need for multilateral action. If governments want to talk about the situation in Burma, the time is now and the venue is the Security Council.”
Original reporting for RFA’s Burmese service by Min Zin. Written and produced for the Web in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.