Written by U Ne Oo on 2001-04-20

Added Comment: Lord Buddha once said actions of "wisdom and virtue" would result in good and wholesome. So too is for those actions of "ignorance and improbity" will end up in array of disasters. When talking about Burmese politics, we can forget about former quote of wholesomeness, but the latter part of "ignorance" and its consequense may always proved to be true. That one action initiated by Australian government, named 'human rights training program for SPDC generals', has now coming into its fruition and this is not going to be worse end of it. The assessment about such training program in Burma by ISHR is also worth careful noting (ISHR letter to Mr Downer is posted herewith). Anyway, help write letter to Mr Downer; facsimile address provided.--regards, U Ne Oo.

Dr U Ne Oo

18 Shannon Place

Adelaide SA 5000

20 April 2001

The Hon. Alexander Downer

Minister for Foreign Affairs
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2601
Facsimile: +612 6261-3111

Dear Mr Downer:

re: Human Rights training program in Burma

I write to you regarding with the Australian government sponsored human rights training program in Burma. The Melbourne Age reported on 20 February 2001 that the Australian government will run four more seminars this year to complete the training. You may recall that we have had extensive communications last September (2000) about the effectiveness of such training program in Burma. As you are aware, I am opposed to the commencement of that training program; and I certainly have not changed the view that if the human rights trainings in Burma were to proceed at all, the Burmese military junta should not use the training as propaganda and that the program should target to educate the Burmese general public at large.

Regrettably, the Australia's human rights training program, as well as your initiative on the so-call ``National Human Rights Committee in Burma'', have become a useful propaganda for military junta. For example, the UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur in his statement on 6 April 2001 before the CHR following his visit to Rangoon notes:

``I take note with satisfaction that the government of Myanmar has constituted a 20-member Human Rights Committee under the patronage of Secretary (1) of the State Peace and Development Council in April 2000. The Committee has eight working groups dealing with issues ranging from international human rights law, health, education and labour. During my mission I had an opportunity to meet with the Committee and have a brief exchange of views on the human rights situation in Myanmar. The work of the Committee is clearly in its very early stages, which makes an objective assessment difficult at present.''

The formation of ``National Human Rights Committee" under SPDC has also been noted in the Commission on Human Rights resolution. I am incensed by the fact that your ill-considered initiative of human rights training program become an instrument for Burmese junta's propaganda. Furthermore, by using an impotent National Human Rights Committee, the junta and its collaborators will now seek to justify against any attempt by pro-democracy groups to install international human rights monitors to Burma.You can see it for yourself, in the enclosed SPDC's letter to ILO Director-General on 11 February 2001, about how junta seeking to avoid ILO labour monitors by quoting a non-existent ``national monitoring mechanism".

I am further disturbed by the irresponsible behaviour of the people who run the training program - Professor David Kinley and Mr Sidoti amongst them - who have decided to take financial assistance, according to the Melbourne Age, from the Premier Oil of United Kingdom to run a seminar in Burma.

For any credible human rights operation, the independence and impartiality have been most important factors. Certainly, it doesn't stand good for the training program to be taking some financial support from private company like Premier Oil which is under an intense pressure to withdraw from Burma. On the other hand, the terms of operation for current human rights training program had been negotiated by the Government of Australia and the Burmese junta. Any meddling of private company in this program should not be allowed. I ask you request that any money taken from Premier Oil which used in that training program be returned. If the money cannot be returned to the Premier Oil, the Australian government must immediately withdraw all official status accorded to that human rights training program in Burma. Mr Sidoti and Professor David Kinley must also be warned that they should not take any offering from private companies as long as they are working under Australian government sponsored program.

Unfortunately, despite the international community's earlier optimism, it becomes evident that the so-called ``secret dialogue'' in Burma is no more than an SPDC's show to ease international pressure. On this note, I renew the call for Australian Federal Parliament to recognise the Committee Representing the People's Parliament in Burma. Furthermore, I ask your government to order all Australian business to cease their current operations in Burma.

Yours sincerely,

Sd. U Ne Oo

Letter to Mr Downer about Human Rights Training Program in Burma