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News release from Shadow Ministe
- Subject: News release from Shadow Ministe
- From: ausgeo@xxxxxxx
- Date: Fri, 06 Dec 1996 01:29:00
Subject: RE:News release from Shadow Minister for Foreign affairs
Democratic Voice of Burma (SYDNEY)
LAURIE BRERETON MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
NEWS RELEASE NEWS RELEASE NEWS RELEASE
55/96 5 December 1996
BURMA: LABOR CALLS FOR SANCTIONS
"The imposition of sanctions on the SLORC regime is the next logical
step if Australia is to give real support to the Burmese democracy movement
led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi", the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Laurie
Brereton, said today following a meeting of the National Security and Trade
Committee of the Federal Labor Caucus.
"The continuing revelations of abuses of human rights in Burma leave
absolutely no doubt that the military junta in Rangoon is beyond the pale.
Nor can one ignore Burma's status as the world's leading producer of heroin
and opium. The undeniable barbarity and corruption of the SLORC and its
continued failure to make progress toward international standards of human
rights and democratic principles deserve the emphatic condemnation of the
Australian Government - in word and in deed."
Mr Brereton noted that the former Labor Government had adopted a policy of
neither encouraging nor discouraging trade with Burma while the actions of the
SLORC were assessed against a series of human rights benchmarks identified by
the then Foreign Minister, Gareth Evans, at the 1994 ASEAN Post Ministerial
Conference. On 10 July 1995 Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest,
but no significant progress has been made in meeting other benchmarks.
Instead the SLORC has embarked on a renewed crackdown the Burmese democracy
movement and Aung San Suu Kyi's movements and actions are now subject to
"In June this year the Australian Senate, in language proposed by Labor,
called on the Australian government to put the SLORC on notice that economic
sanctions must be placed on the agenda if civil and political rights are not
restored in Burma. Since that time Labor has continued to monitor the
situation in Burma with growing concern. Last month's attack on Aung San Suu
Kyi by supporters of the military regime and the suppression of renewed
student protests leave no doubt that the SLORC is unlikely to engage in
serious dialogue with the democracy movement or take real steps toward the
restoration of civil and political rights unless it is confronted with
intensified international pressure."
"The Australian Government has a clear choice - either it can demonstrate
leadership or do nothing while the situation in Burma deteriorated further."
To this end, the Labor Opposition calls on the Howard Government to -
* suspend the issue of visas for visits by Burmese officials and other
persons associated with the SLORC, exceptions should apply only to embassy
personnel with others being determined case by case by the Minister for
Foreign Affairs on the basis of Australia's national interest;
* actively discourage Australian citizens from visiting Burma;
* actively discourage Australian trade with Burma, including closure of the
Austrade office in Rangoon; withdrawal from circulation of the DFAT Country
Economic Brief on Burma; and active discouragement of Australian companies
from doing business in Burma and, with the exception of work already in
progress, a ban on new investment in Burma;
* intensify diplomatic efforts to bring international pressure to bear on the
SLORC and to work actively against the interests of the SLORC in all
appropriate international forums: and
* put the SLORC on notice that diplomatic relations will be downgraded in the
event of further deterioration of the situation in Burma.
Mr Brereton noted that up until now Foreign Minister Downer and Trade Minister
Fisher have indicated that the Government is not prepared to impose economic
sanctions on Burma.
"It may well be the case that unilateral sanctions by Australia will have only
a limited direct impact on the economic interests of the SLORC, What Mr Downer
and Mr fischer fail to understand, however, is the powerful political message
sanctions would send, not only to the SLORC but to the international
community - in particular the United States, the European Union and the
nations of ASEAN. This reality is clearly recognized by Aung San Suu Kyi who
has stated that sanctions can have a positive effect."
"The SLORC, like the south African government at the time of apartheid, must
be treated as a pariah regime. Without the sanctions applied to South Africa,
Nelson Mandela would still be in prison. The question for the Howard
Government is whether, in the absence of any real movement towards democracy
in Burma, the SLORC are the sort of people decent Australians should have as
trading partners. Now is the time for the Howard Government to heed Aung
San Suu Kyi's call for the imposition of sanctions on the SLORC. If it does
not, its professed commitment to human rights and democratic principles will
be left exposed as little more that empty rhetoric."
Contact: Philip Dorling (61 - 6 - 277 4717)