Christian NGOs Unite in Call for U.N. Action on Burma

More than thirty non-governmental organizations from across twenty different countries worldwide have united in a call to the United Nations to take urgent action on the violent conflict continuing in Burma.

The NGOs, which include Christian organizations Church World Service (CWS), Australian Catholic Relief in Cambodia and the Jesuit Refugee Service, sent a joint letter earlier in the week to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and members of the U.N. Security Council calling for a peaceful and binding resolution on Burma.

The Southeast Asian country has seen an escalation in violence in recent months as the Burmese regime continues its military offensive against Karen villagers, with an estimated 20,000 already displaced.

In the letter, the NGOs praised the U.N. for the first-ever briefings it held in December 2005 and May 2006 to discuss the situation in Burma, which they described as a “tremendous first step in addressing Burma’s crisis.”

They added, however, that, “Now the U.N. Security Council must follow up on that first step and take action”.

The letter details the desperate plight of the more than 2,000 displaced persons who have fled across the border into neighboring Thailand as well as the others who are “desperately trying to survive in the jungle with little to no access to food, medicine, water and shelter.”

The Burmese army has also, according to the letter, planted more than 2,000 anti-personnel landmines to prohibit the fleeing villagers from accessing humanitarian aid and alerting foreign agencies of the violent campaign being initiated by the Burmese people.

“It is essential for the United Nations Secretary General and Security Council to follow up the historic December 16th consensus discussion with concrete and urgent action to address the escalating catastrophe in Burma,” reads the letter.

The Burmese junta has so far decided to ignore 28 resolutions passed by the U.N. General Assembly and Commission on Human Rights.

“Now is the time for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the members of the U.N. Security Council to move beyond discussion and take action in the Council,” urged the NGOs.

More than 1 million of Burma’s 53 million people have already fled the country as a result of the violent campaign being waged by the regime, which includes the “rampant” use of rape as a weapon against women. The Burmese military junta is also the world’s leading recruiter of child soldiers with an estimated 70,000 children now forced to fight.

But despite the enormity of the crimes against humanity taking place in Burma, it remains one of the most neglected crises in the world.

Refugees International stated in the letter, “The displaced people of Burma are more than forgotten; they are virtually invisible."

The more than thirty NGOs join calls already ringing out from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Refugees International and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, as well as previous calls from CWS, for the U.N. Security Council to act

The NGOs who signed the letter are (in alphabetical order):

American Jewish World Service (United States), Action for Democracy in Vietnam (France), Alliance for Reform & Democracy in Asia (Hong Kong), Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC) (Philippines) (a coalition of 15 organizations from 11 countries), Australian Catholic Relief in Cambodia, Canadian Friends of Burma (Canada), Church World Service (United States), EarthRights International (United States), FORUM-ASIA (Thailand), France Libertés - Fondation Danielle Mitterrand (France), Foundation for Media Alternatives (Philippines), Globe International (Mongolia), IBON Foundation Inc. (Philippines), Initiatives for International Dialogue (Philippines), International Movement for a Just World (Malaysia), Jesuit Refugee Service (United States), Jubilee Campaign (United States), Jubilee South Africa, Korean House for International Solidarity (South Korea), Network of Women in Growth (Ghana), People in Need Foundation (Czech Republic), Peoples Forum for Human Rights and Development (Bhutan), Polish Helsinki Committee (Poland), Pontis Foundation (Slovak Republic), Refugees International (United States), Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières) (France), Rencontre Africaine Pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme (RADDHO) (Senegal), TENAGANITA (Women’s Force) (Malaysia), The Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, Bergen (Norway), U.S. Campaign for Burma (United States), United Lao Action Center (France) and WARIPNET, West African Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons Network (Senegal).