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STUC 2008



Pressure needed to bring freedom for Burmese people

by John Stevenson

Hamid Rasheed
Hamid Rasheed

The STUC will press Scottish-based companies to cut ties with Burma to build pressure to lift the oppression of the Burmese people.

It will also call on trust managers of any investment of trade union members or pension to withdraw funds from the 'dirty list' of companies that invest in Burma. It will expose the use of forced labour and lobby the Scottish and UK governments to put pressure on Burma, following a motion from UNISON Scotland.

"Conference is appalled at the wide spread oppression, grave human rights abuse and violations inflicted by the military junta in Burma", said UNISON's Hamid Rasheed.

"Since 1962, Burma has been ruled by one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world. In 1988 a student led pro-democracy uprising was brutally put down by the regime. In 1990, the regime held elections, in which the National League for Democracy led by "Aung San Suu Kyi" won over 80% seats. The regime refused to accept the election results and imprisoned and tortured the elected members and political activists."

Hamid outlined the distressing truth of life in Burma. In eastern Burma, the regime is engaged in "Ethnic Cleansing". In the past 10 years:

More than 3000 villages have been destroyed

Rape is used as a weapon of war

The regime has subjected tens of thousands of its people to forced labour - a blatant breach of ILO conventions

"Neither does the military regime like trade unions! As a matter of fact the regime has imposed the most repressive anti-trade union laws - banning all kinds of trade union activity", explained Hamid.

"Each day Burmese trade unionists (including UNISON members) risk imprisonment, torture and their lives in organising members and setting up networks to keep the outside world well informed about the plight of Burmese people."

UNISON Scotland and its Scottish International Committee are campaigning:

To raise awareness on the grim situation in Burma

To move motions at appropriate forums to generate trade unions support. To seek twinning links with our branches to initiate projects.

To ask our branches to become an affiliate of Burma Campaign UK.

Hamid welcomed the British Government's support for a UN Arms Embargo against Burma. He also welcomed an imposed ban on Burmese Gems, Timber, and Metals, plus a ban on investments in these sectors.

It was now time for further sanctions, said Hamid. "It is vital for us to pile up economic and political pressure on the military regime, to start genuine talks with Aung San Suu Kyi, to ensure a smooth transition to democracy".


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