CSW welcomes Shadow minister's call for action on Burma

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) welcomed a call by the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs on Tuesday, asking for "clear benchmarks for the Burmese junta and deadlines for meeting them", starting with the release of political prisoners and for an end to "the apparently open-ended and inconclusive diplomatic exchanges with the regime".

Speaking in a debate on Promoting Democracy and Human Rights, in the House of Commons yesterday, David Lidington said: "At the beginning of this year, I thought that the record of the Burmese Government could have plunged no lower.

"However, even those of us who believed that we were inured to the horror that is government in Burma were shocked by the ruthless brutality of a military junta who were prepared to obstruct efforts to bring help to the dying and destitute in the wake of cyclone Nargis."

Mr Lidington welcomed the forthcoming visit of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to Burma in December, but called on the British Government to press the United Nations Security Council and the Secretary-General to set out specific benchmarks for progress in Burma.

"The very first step should be the release of political prisoners in Burma-something that was demanded by the Security Council a year ago and on which no action has yet been taken by those who rule Burma."

He urged the British Government to ensure that Burma is "high on the agenda" of the EU Heads of Government summit this week, and is "brought to the fore" at the Asia-Europe meeting on 24 October.

CSW's Advocacy Officer for Burma, Benedict Rogers, said: "We warmly welcome the specific calls for action made by Britain's opposition party, and we hope that the British Government will take notice and will use its position on the UN Security Council to secure specific benchmarks for progress in Burma, with deadlines, the first of which must be the release of political prisoners by the time Ban Ki-moon visits Burma in December."