Burma's "Saffron revolution" is not over
The ITUC and the FIDH today released a new report on Burma entitled: "Burma's "Saffron Revolution" is not over".
Based on the findings of a joint international mission to the Thai-Burma border and interviews with participants in last
October's protest movement and victims of its repression by the military, the 50-page report includes detailed policy
proposals and recommendations to the international community.
It comes on the eve of two key events scheduled next week. On Monday, 10 December, which is also International Human
Rights Day, EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Brussels are expected to assess the situation after a number of high-profile
United Nations visits to Burma. The next day, the same topic will be discussed by the UN Human Rights Council, meeting
As indicated by the report's sub-title, the ITUC and FIDH believe this is the "Time for the international community to
act". The underlying analysis is that the violent repression, particularly the targeting by the military of
peacefully-demonstrating monks, has deeply antagonised Burma's society, at the same time as it has created new
resistance dynamics which are unlikely to fade away.
"Desire for change seems to be greater than ever", the report says. Noting that "no real signs of de-escalation of
repression and commitment to a peaceful transition have been given by the ruling junta since the crackdown", the world's
largest global trade union organisation and the oldest international human rights organisation with a universal mandate
argue that the recent events make a strong case for urgent and increased international pressure.
They say this view reflects positions defended both by victims and by organisations representing Burma's democracy
movement, based inside and outside the country. In addition to meeting with victims and witnesses, the mission held
meetings with 15 different organisations as well as with the diplomatic community.
The joint report details four key principles for action and suggests the international community should focus on four
main leverage points. The principles stress that Burma should be kept as a top priority on the international agenda;
that increasing pressure on the junta now will be useful, not harmful to the reconciliation and democracy process; that
the international community should accept "taking responsibility for Burma" rather than sticking to its "wait-and-see"
attitude; and that it should implement a two-pronged approach of influencing the regime and encouraging the people by
sending clear messages of international support.
The leverage points cover detailed recommendations aimed both at raising international pressure on the military junta
and supporting national reconciliation; cutting the junta's economic lifeline through comprehensive sanctions including,
in particular, the priority sectors of oil and gas, timber, gems and financial - including banking - services, with due
consideration, where justified, for exceptions on humanitarian or similar grounds; establishing a "Burma Transition
Fund" that would be available after a return to democracy and, finally, supporting a peaceful transition to democracy by
concrete initiatives aiming at promoting a culture of democracy within Burma, also directed at the army, the
professionalizing of which should be accepted both by officers and soldiers themselves, as well as by the population.
While also expressing support for the "good offices" mission of the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy to Burma, Prof.
Ibrahim Gambari and the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Prof. Sergio Pinheiro, the report
notes that the junta has so far failed to fully cooperate with either. It explains why both mechanisms should be allowed
to open permanent representation offices in Burma.
The report contains detailed recommendations addressed on all these issues to the UN Security Council, the UN Human
Rights Council, the EU, ASEAN and other regional organisations and governments. It also contains a concrete warning to
the ruling military junta, that it "should consider very seriously" that, unless it "acts swiftly to towards
implementing the reforms expected from it", it may soon find itself facing legal action against it at the International
Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.
Both options, currently under examination at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and by the international legal
community and human rights movements, respectively, are explained in detail in the relevant sections of the report.
Other pressure points, such as a Security Council arms embargo, or decision to place all revenue from international
investment and trade with Burma on an escrow account, are also examined in the report.
All stakeholders in the Burma crisis must accept their share of responsibilities in encouraging a peacefull transition
to democracy, say the FIDH and ITUC. "There is no time to loose: we cannot run the the risk that the current window of
opportunity for a democratic transition swings shut", said Olivier De Schutter, FIDH Secretary General.
"While the United Nations Secretary General will declare open, on Monday 10 December a year-long campaign to celebrate
the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, our collective capacity to effectively realise and
promote peace, human rights and democracy, is at stake" added Guy Ryder, ITUC General Secretary.
Founded on 1 November 2006, the ITUC represents 168 million workers in 153 countries and territories and has 305