Date: 20 January 2012.

Re: The Common Policy on Burma/Myanmar

Dear Sir/Madame,

We learn to know that the European Union will start the process of reviewing its Common Position on Burma/Myanmar soon, and we would like to underline a few notable matters that the EU should consider with regards to the recent political developments in Burma/Myanmar.

It is delightful and encouraging to see the significant developments in Burma/Myanmar over the past few months. The government returned to dialogue with the pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and the subsequent negotiations between the government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi have produced fruitful outcomes. The government released a significant number of political prisoners, particularly the leading dissidents, on 13 January 2012, and the ongoing process of cease-fire negotiations with ethnic nationalities seemed to be in progress. The National League for Democracy (NLD) successfully re-registered the party and is preparing for the by-elections in April 2012.

Along with the progress in national reconciliation process, the government has initiated liberalization in certain areas such as allowing limited media freedoms and loosening its controls of the opposition political activities. However, the international community, including the European Union needs to be vigilant and not to be over-excited with all these political developments.

There are still as many as hundreds of political prisoners (the significant discrepancies in the number of political prisoners compiled by the government, the NLD and other groups and organizations should be noted) remain in the prisons across the country and the government has continued denying the existence of these political prisoners. Although thousands of prisoners have been released since president Thein Sein came to power, the majority of the prisoners released have been the common criminals.

Although the government released leading political opponents, these political dissidents are not released unconditionally and subject to certain legal conditions which are similar to parole. Furthermore, the oppressive and unjust laws, which deny the civil liberties and the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms, are still in effect. Therefore, the political dissidents including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi could be re-arrested anytime in the future when the government deems it necessary.

The emergence of an independent judiciary system, strengthening the rule of law, and accountability and transparency of the government not only in political and economic affairs but all other areas of the government’s ruling mechanism are in need of immediate and essential reforms.

We would like the European Union to consider carefully that its policy on Burma does not undermine the progress of ongoing political process by ensuring that (1) The government release all remaining political prisoners unconditionally, and those who have been released must be freed from any legal conditions (2) The judicial reforms are initiated and undertaken (3) The existing oppressive and unjust laws that deny the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms are repealed in their entirety (4) The rampant corruption in the entire ruling mechanism of government is effectively controlled and eliminated (5) The cronyism, the nepotism and all other immoral behaviours and practices of the ruling authorities that have been deeply rooted and entrenched since under the military regime are abolished

Foreign Investment in Burma/Myanmar The foreign investments in Burma over the past two decades or more did not contribute for the development of the country and instead strengthening the military power. The military junta spent a large amount of public funds and revenues obtained from the international investments solely to increase its military capacity.

The government budgets for defence services were disproportionately allocated compared with the crucial sectors for the development of the country such as health and education. If the government of Thein Sein continues allocating massive funds for military, the revenues that gained from foreign investments would not be used for the public welfare.

The investments in Burma/Myanmar must contribute for the development of the country but not for the personal gains of the ruling elites and associates. The foreign investors should invest in areas where the investment is essentially needed for the development of the country. The foreign investments in Burma/Myanmar must be ethical, and beneficial to the people of Burma.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has clearly outlined her stance on foreign investments as: “It depends on how and in which fields they (foreign investors) are going to invest. We’ve made it quite clear that we are keen on good investment, meaning not just ethical investment but investment in fields where it is really necessary.”

Therefore, we would like the European Union to decide carefully on whether it is time for further economic engagements with Burma/Myanmar by encouraging trades and if so, in which fields the member countries should consider investing.

The foreign investments in Burma/Myanmar should be beneficial to the genuine developments of the country and promoting the welfare of the general public but not for a particular group of ruling elites and their associates. Therefore, the effective monitoring and evaluations of investments by the EU member states in the foreseeable future need to be implemented.

The corruption is still rampant across the country, and the ruling elites and their cronies still monopolize the business opportunities. The misconducts and the abuse of power as well as nepotism are committed by the government officials at different levels. It is essential to make sure that such practices are effectively monitored, controlled and eliminated. As long as the government is corrupted behind the veil of reforms, any further economic engagements should be restraint. To conclude, the European Union needs to assess the political developments correctly and decide its common policy that helps Burma/Myanmar become a genuine civilian and democratic state in the foreseeable future.

President Thein Sein said during his latest foreign media interview: “We cannot leave the military behind because we require the military’s participation in our country’s development.” We hope that the Common Position of the European Union would help Burmese people achieve their full enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms under a genuine civilian and democratic government free from military domination. We hope that the Common Position of the European Union is beneficial to the welfare of the general public and the genuine development of the country instead of the interests of the ruling elites and associates.

Yours Sincerely, Burma Independence Advocates Park House 111 Uxbridge Road Ealing London United Kingdom W5 5LB

The Burma Independence Advocates (BIA) is a London-based advocacy organisation and think tank working for the restoration of democratic values in Burma. The organisation is registered as a private company limited by guarantee and was founded in 2009 with the aim of helping the people of Burma achieve the full enjoyment of their fundamental rights and freedoms in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Company number: 7111145.

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