Written Answers. - Sanctions on Burma.

Desmond J. O'Malley


103 Mr. O'Malley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps, if any, he will take as President of the European Union and on behalf of the Irish Government to impose immediate trade and investment sanctions on Burma as requested by Aung San Suu Kyi in view of the activities of the authoritarian military regime which is currently running Burma and of the ousting of the democratically elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, by the military dictatorship, the imprisonment of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, the lack of respect for human rights, the use of forced labour and the existence of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Burma in neighbouring countries. [16521/96]

The situation in Burma is of great concern to the Council of the European Union and to the Government. I am aware of the requests made by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of the National League for Democracy for the imposition of immediate trade and investment sanctions on Burma. The Council of Ministers considered the matter of Burma on 15 July 1996. The Council were deeply alarmed by the continuing deterioration of the political situation in Burma and urged the State Law and Order Restoration Council — SLORC — to restore democracy without delay and to respect the human rights of the people of Burma. The Council reiterated the call for a full and satisfactory explanation from the Burmese authorities of the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the death in custody, on 22 June 1996, of the late Mr. James Leander Nichols, who has served as Honorary Consul for several European States. With this in mind, the Council invited the various instances of the European Union to consider possible further restrictive measures in co-operation with other countries concerned and is continuing to monitor developments in this matter closely.

Since then the Irish Presidency has also asked the UN Working Party on Arbitrary Arrest and Imprisonment, the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar (Burma), and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate current aspects of the human rights' situation in Burma. The European Union will devote the Eighth Meeting of the Committee for the Generalised System of Preferences on trade from 30 September to 2 October, entirely to the investigation of alleged practices of forced labour in Burma. When I represented the EU Presidency as the ASEAN Regional Forum in Jakarta, I sought a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Burma, Mr. Ohn Gyaw. This was the first occasion since 1994 that such a high-level meeting has taken place between the EU and Burma. I indicated in forthright terms to Mr. Ohn Gyaw that the European Union wished to see the immediate and unconditional release of those members of the National League for Democracy and all other political prisoners and for the SLORC to enter into meaningful dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other representatives of the pro-democracy groups to bring about national conciliation and democratic reform, respecting the aspirations of the Burmese people as expressed in the elections of 1990. I shall pursue these concerns further when I lead the EU Ministerial Troika in a further meeting with Foreign Minister Ohn Gyaw, in the margins of the current UN General Assembly, which is to take place in New York tomorrow.