December 12, 2006, Ottawa
LAUNCH OF PARLIAMENTARY FRIENDS OF BURMA - PART I
LAUNCH OF PARLIAMENTARY FRIENDS OF BURMA - PART II
The Parliamentary Friends of Burma (PFOB) was officially launched on Dec. 7 at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa with the membership of 25 MPs and Senators from all political parties in Canada. “This long-anticipated Parliamentary group was created to encourage dialogue and raise national as well as international awareness, for the people of Burma and their long struggle for democracy,” said Liberal MP Larry Bagnell, elected chair of PFOB.
“PFOB is now the biggest Parliamentary friendship group in the Canadian Parliament,” said Tin Maung Htoo, Executive Director of the Canadian Friends of Burma (CFOB), the organization that helped form the group. “We are also delighted to see influential parliamentarians joining in the group,” he added.
PFOB membership includes important figures such as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the ruling party’s Caucus Chair. The group also consists of leading political figures such as Mr. Jack Layton, the leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), the Chair of Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights, and the foreign affairs critic from Bloc Quebecois.
“The launch of Parliamentary Friends of Burma (PFOB) last week in Ottawa is a timely and important initiative in the cause of restoring democracy and the rule of law to 50 million nationals of what should be a peaceful, important and prosperous member of the international community,” said Hon. David Kilgour, former Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific) and a member of Advisory Council of the Canadian Friends of Burma. He chaired the official launch of PFOB on Dec. 7.
To the event, Dr. Sein Win, Prime Minister of the Burmese government in exiled, Mr. Charles Chong, the head of Singaporean Parliamentary Caucus on Burma and member of ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC), Dr. Tint Swe, representative of Members of Parliament Union (MPU-Burma), and Dr. Thoung Htun, UN representative for the government in exiled, attended, along with Canadian parliamentarians, government officials, representatives of civil society and Burmese delegates from across Canada. Dr. Sein Win delivered a keynote speech during the reception.
On Dec. 8, a series of important meetings took place in the Parliament, and implementation of ‘Burma Motion’ passed in the House of Commons in May, 2005 was mainly discussed. The ruling Conservative MPs including Mr. Jason Kenney, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Mr. Deepak Obhria, Parliamentary Secretary to Foreign Minister, assured the delegates that their government that voted in favor of the motion during the opposition is considering for the implementation of major recommendations including a provision of tangible support to Burmese democratic institutions and imposition of tougher measure against the Burmese military junta.
Canada to accept 2000 more Burmese Refugees
Meanwhile, we have been informed that Mr. Monte Sobbert, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will give a visit to Thai-Burma border in January, 2007.
Canada accepted 810 Burmese Karen refugees from Thai-Burma border in 2006, and most of them have already arrived since Oct, 2006 in more than 10 different communities across Canada.
Recently, CBC radio-one broadcast a series of feature reports and news on those new arrivals in Ottawa. You can listen to those programs by clicking the following link: http://origin.www.cbc.ca/ottawa/features/refugees/onair.html
Yesterday, CBC national radio also aired an interview with Dr. Khin Saw Win, a member of Advisory Council of the Canadian Friends of Burma. Please click on the following link http:///
Canada's Official Policy on Burma
Canada supports democratic reform in Burma while at the same time it allows Canadian companies to trade and invest in partnership with this country's military dictatorship.
In 1988, Canada cut off all overseas aid to Burma along with many other Western countries in condemnation of the August 8, 1988 (8.8.88) massacre in which the military gunned down thousands of unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators in the streets.
From 1988 to 1997, Canada imposed various condemnatory measures against the military regime, but still held that constructive engagement was the best way to democratize the country. However, after years of unsuccessful attempts to "constructively engage" Burma's military rulers, the Canadian government decided in 1997 to introduce limited punitive measures or Selective Economic Measures, against Burma.
Limited Measures Ineffective
"Limited" is the operative word. The more accurate word would be "voluntary". It means that, unless Burma starts a major war in Southeast Asia, Canadian companies can do as much business as they want with the country's military rulers.
And Canadian companies are indeed taking advantage of this weak policy. Since the measures were imposed in 1997, imports to Canada from Burma have more than tripled, now at over $60 million (See Imports). Telecommunications giant Nortel Networks (which has sold cellular telephone technology through its subsidiary Telrad, to a regime which outlaws fax machines), TransCanada Pipelines (which helped build a controversial gas pipeline whose preparation involved forced relocations of villagers as well as forced labour), and Ivanhoe Mines (whose CEO, Robert Friedland, who is wanted by the US Environmental Protection Agency for past transgressions - See Mining Campaign) - these are just a few of the Canadian firms who are doing business with a regime whose human rights abuses include summary execution, torture, rape and arbitrary imprisonment.
Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi is the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) which won 82% of the votes in the 1990 elections. She and her party have been urging foreign countries for years not to do business with the Burmese military regime. She says "no amount of aid or investment will benefit our people. Profits from business enterprises will merely go towards enriching a small, already very privileged elite."
According to the Sunday Times of London, most countries are taking heed of Suu Kyi's pleas. Foreign investment in Burma has fallen from US$777.4 million to US $429.5 million in 1999 alone. Unfortunately, Canadian companies are responsible for part of that $429.5 million.
List of Canadian government's Current Measures
- No bilateral aid since 1988
- No multilateral aid through international financial institutions
- No commercial packages (the only G8 country to do so) or Export
- Corporation Assistance
- No visas to Junta officials
- No diplomatic presence in Rangoon
- No trade promotions
- No military sales
- Selective Economic Measures: Burma on Area Control List, No General
- Preferential Tariff eligibility