Yesterday’s The Independent carried a combative article about Burma by John Bercow MP. It drew its inspiration from a visit to the Thai-Burma border undertaken by a group of British parliamentarians. Bercow argues:
The thugs and impostors who rule the roost practise some of the most egregious human rights abuses known to mankind. Rape as a weapon of war, extra-judicial killings, water torture, mass displacement, compulsory relocation, forced labour, incarceration of political prisoners, religious and ethnic persecution, and the daily destruction of rural villages are all part of the story of savagery that has disfigured Burma.
In his wide-ranging appeal to the new British Secretary of State for International Development, Douglas Alexander, to re-prioritise humanitarian work in Burma, Bercow reflects that:
Good work is undoubtedly done in Burma by dedicated international public servants and experienced NGOs. Yet the blunt truth is that we are failing the people of Burma. Co-ordination is abysmal, communication with border groups and exile organisations is pitiful and the policy response to the continuing humanitarian crisis is frankly dysfunctional.
In the past, I have posted on other parliamentary efforts in Australia and Britain to argue for change in Burma. Elected representatives from ASEAN and the United States have, at various times, also been active in lobbying for different policies on the country. Some of their efforts have been successful in determining government policies on Southeast Asia’s most controversial country. It obviously remains to be seen whether John Bercow’s arguments will gain any traction with his parliamentary colleagues and, in particular, with the new International Development Secretary.
I will be following any developments closely and will do my best to keep New Mandala readers up-to-date with future changes to the official British approach.
Thanks to David Knezevic for drawing my attention to The Independent‘s interesting article.