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Momentum Grows behind Calls for a UN Commission of Inquiry to Investigate Burma’s Crimes against Humanity

International support is growing for the establishment of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry to investigate “crimes against humanity” in Burma, officially known as the Union of Myanmar, which is the largest country by geographical area in mainland Southeast Asia.

Cover of ‘Than Shwe: Unmasking Burma’s Tyrant’

In recent days France, Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand have added their support, and a total of ten governments are now calling for an inquiry. The United States, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Australia and Hungary have already expressed their support.

A UK-based group called Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has been campaigning for the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry for several years, alongside other international human rights organizations. In March this year, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, concluded that human rights violations in Burma may amount to crimes against humanity, and recommended the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry.

CSW wrote to European Union (EU) Foreign Ministers last month, calling on the EU to work to secure a recommendation for a Commission of Inquiry in the forthcoming UN General Assembly resolution on Burma next month.

Benedict Rogers

Benedict Rogers CSW’s East Asia Team Leader and author of “Than Shwe: Unmasking Burma’s Tyrant,” said: “Momentum is undoubtedly building and governments around the world are increasingly recognizing that the gross violations of human rights perpetrated by Burma’s military regime, which amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, can no longer be disregarded with impunity. We urge other governments and the EU to join the ten countries in building an international coalition to establish a UN Commission of Inquiry.

Burmese refugees fleeing from the violence into Thailand

“A full international legal investigation into the regime’s widespread and systematic use of rape as a weapon of war, forcible conscription of child soldiers, use of forced labor, torture, destruction of villages and killings is much needed and long overdue. The crisis in eastern Burma is Asia’s Darfur and cannot be ignored any longer.”

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Matthew Jones, Public Affairs Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 7826 938 360, email matthewjones@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

CSW is a human rights organization which specializes in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.

Karen Christian women in national dress

Note from Dan Wooding: I have made two trips into Burma, one legal and the other illegal. The latter was with Doug Sutphen, with whom I co-authored (with Sara Bruce,) a book called “God’s Smuggler to China.” While we in Thailand, close to the Burmese border, Doug had made contact with a contact with one of the groups fighting for freedom for the Karen tribal people, who are mainly Christians.

Once it was agreed that we could go “unofficially” into the country, we were ferried across the fast-flowing Salween River into one of the Karen military camps but, when we first arrived, the general in charge would not agree to an interview with me until I had proved that I was a Christian. So, with the Karen “freedom fighters,” who all had a New Testament in their top pockets and a rifle at their side, I shared with them about how I had found Christ as my own personal savior back in England. Once he was satisfied that I was indeed a believer, he agreed to talk with myself and Doug.

We learned from the general about how the Karen ethnic people have been involved in a struggle against the repression and brutality of Burma’s military junta since 1949, making this the longest running civil war in the world. He told me, “All we want is to be able to practice our Christian faith in freedom and we are willing to lay down our lives to achieve this end.”

We also learned that an American Baptist missionary, Adoniram Judson, Jr. (9 August 1788–12 April 1850) played a great role in bringing the Gospel to the Karen people as well as the other people of Burma. At the age of 25, Judson became the first Protestant missionary sent from North America to preach in Burma. His mission and work led to the formation of the first Baptist association in America, inspired many Americans to become or support missionaries, translated the Bible into Burmese, and established a number of Baptist churches in Burma. Judson served in Burma for almost forty years.

After our “illegal” visit to Burma, we then were able to fly legally into Rangoon, the capital city, where we met with many of the courageous believers living in the capital city and also in Mandalay. We were overwhelmed with their joy and infectious faith in Jesus Christ as we joined them for their worship services in such difficult conditions.

The Christians of Burma have certainly earned my great respect as they have struggled for years against one of the most tyrannical regimes in the world who seem bent on wiping them out. They certainly deserve our support and prayers.

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