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CSW (05/11/06) – British Members of Parliament have called on the United Kingdom to seek a binding resolution on Burma at the United Nations Security Council “as a matter of urgency”, as the number of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Karen State exceeds 15,000.

According to the latest report by the Free Burma Rangers, a relief team working in the conflict areas of western and northern Karen State , an estimated 15,500 people are now displaced as a result of the Burma Army’s worst offensive in the area since 1997.

Civilians have been shot at point-blank range, tortured, mutilated and even beheaded. Homes have been burned, rice barns destroyed and villages surrounded with landmines laid by the Burma Army to prevent villagers returning to their homes. A Karen aid worker working with the Free Burma Rangers died earlier this week after stepping on a landmine.

A cross-party group of MPs have tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM), condemning the gross human rights violations, and urging the British Government to provide urgently needed humanitarian assistance to those fleeing the attacks. The UK ’s Department for International Development (DFID) currently provides no funding for relief teams assisting the IDPs in eastern Burma .

Burma was also raised yesterday in Oral Questions to DFID in Parliament. Several MPs on the floor of the House of Commons urged DFID to supply funding to relief teams providing humanitarian assistance to the IDPs.

The EDM, supported by senior Labour MPs as well as the Conservative Party’s Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague and the Liberal Democrats’ Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Moore, urges the UN Security Council to use its authority to stop the violence against civilians and work to bring democratic change in Burma .

The UN Security Council recently unanimously passed Resolution 1674, condemning attacks on civilians, especially women and children, in armed conflict generally. The resolution specifically states that “the deliberate targeting of civilians and other protected persons, and the commission of systematic, flagrant and widespread violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in the situations of armed conflict, may constitute a threat to international peace and security, and reaffirms in this regard its readiness to consider such situations and, where necessary, to adopt appropriate steps.” The resolution also invites the UN Secretary-General to “take concrete steps to enhance the capacity of the United Nations” to protect civilians.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas, said: “We warmly welcome the call from MPs of all parties for the crisis in Burma to be addressed urgently. It is imperative that the international community respond to the current crisis in Karen State , and use the UN Security Council to bring an end to the suffering. The United Kingdom and other countries should act immediately to bring Burma to the Security Council, and to seek a binding resolution.”

NOTES TO EDITORS

The EDM has so far received the support of the Conservative Party’s Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague MP and Shadow Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell MP, the Liberal Democrats’ Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Moore MP, Labour MPs Joan Ruddock, Julie Morgan, Jim Dobbin and Roberta Blackman-Woods, and Conservative MPs Michael Gove, Mark Pritchard, David Burrowes, Peter Bottomley, Robert Walter and Andrew Selous.

In a press release from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Burma , the group’s Chairman, John Bercow MP, said: “The Burma Army is guilty of the most sadistic savagery against innocent civilians in Karen State . Those internally displaced people in Eastern Burma who are struggling to survive in the jungle are in desperate and urgent need of humanitarian assistance and DFID should now provide it. Simultaneously, the UN Security Council must condemn unreservedly the government of Burma for its slaughter policy and pass a binding resolution calling for democratic change, the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the freeing of other political prisoners.”

For latest reports on the Karen crisis see www.freeburmarangers.org

The full text of the EDM reads:

ATTACKS ON CIVILIANS IN KAREN STATE , BURMA

That this House condemns the gross violations of human rights perpetrated by the Burma Army in Karen State, Burma, in recent months, including the displacement of over 11,000 villagers, the shooting of civilians at point-blank range, the beheading and mutilation of civilians, the shooting of a nine year-old girl, and the continued attacks on Karen civilians in the worst offensive since 1997; calls on Her Majesty’s Government and the European Union to condemn these atrocities; urges the Department for International Development (DFID) to provide urgently-needed humanitarian assistance to the Internally Displaced People in eastern Burma through Thai-based relief organisations; calls on the UN Security Council to use its authority to stop the violence against civilians in Eastern Burma and to pass a binding resolution requiring democratic change in Burma; calls on Her Majesty’s Government to work with UNSC member states to ensure such a resolution is passed as a matter of urgency.