Written Answers. - Human Rights Abuses.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

52 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, forced labour and the gross and systematic violation of human rights of the citizens of Burma; his views on whether the international community has an obligation to support the efforts of Aung San Sui Kyi and the National League of Democracy which won 82 per cent of the parliamentary seats in the last election in 1990; and the steps, if any, being taken to end one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world. [22033/98]

I am greatly concerned at the continuing abuse of the human rights of the Burmese people by the military regime currently in power in Rangoon and in particular by the recent incidents involving the freedom of movement of the National League for Democracy leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. In my statement to the General Assembly of the United Nations last September, I drew attention to the human rights situation in Burma and urged the need for international action.

The Government's position in relation to Burma is based on the Common Position adopted by the European Union in October 1996. The Common Position stresses the Union's profound concern at the continuing deterioration of the political situation in Burma, including the restrictions imposed on fundamental rights of freedom such as speech, movement and assembly. It also imposes various restrictions on the military regime in Burma and urges the regime to restore democracy without delay and to respect human rights. The Common Position was renewed for a further six months last week at the General Affairs Council which was held in Luxembourg. I argued strongly on that occasion for increased sanctions to be imposed on the regime and I am pleased to inform the House that the Common Position was strengthened through a widening of the visa ban by explicitly including transit visas under the current ban and its extension to cover Burmese authorities in the tourism sector. I have indicated to our EU partners our support for the further strengthening and broadening of EU sanctions to include aspects of trade and investment.

The Deputy will no doubt be aware that Ireland supported the adoption of a resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar last April at the 54th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. This resolution expressed the concern of the international community at the continuing violations of human rights in Myanmar and called upon the Government of Myanmar to guarantee an end to violations of the right to life and the integrity of the human being and to ensure full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

I wish to assure the Deputy that the Government will continue to avail of every opportunity to work for an improvement of the human rights situation in Burma and to assist the democratic movement in that country.