MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
FOREIGN OPERATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE
SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
JULY 25, 1995
Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee:
I appreciate the opportunity to present to this Subcommittee information regarding the current situation of my country, Karenni, and our people. I also submit to you my full statement for your records.
Mr. Chairman, Karenni is now facing renewed armed incursions and attacks against our people and territory by the armed forces of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) of Burma. To say the least, our situation is extremely critical. Before I give details of this, please allow me to provide some background information.
Karenni is a small state with about 320,000 people bordering Burma, Shan States and Thailand. Karenni is a parliamentary democracy. Our Prime Minister is Aung Than Lay. We have been fighting to maintain our sovereignty from British colonial rule and, since 1947, from successive Burmese regimes, the latest of which is SLORC.
On March 21, 1995, the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) met with SLORC in Loikaw, one of our towns, to work out a 16 point cease-fire agreement that was signed that day. Among the 16 points were:
-- the then-existing military situation in both SLORC and KNPP designated areas would be maintained;
-- there would be a stop to portering in the whole of Karenni;
-- there would be no more collection of portering fees in Karenni.
On June 15, 1995 SLORC began collecting porter fees in the SLORC- designated area, began forcibly recruiting porters and requisitioning horses and tractors. KNPP protested. Then on June 17, two SLORC battalions moved into KNPP-designated areas. KNPP's protest was answered by informing us that the up-coming Thai elections posed a threat of border troubles. On June 26, one of the two battalions already in KNPP-designated areas moved deeper in and two more battalions crossed the Salween River into KNPP- designated areas. SLORC now has about 5000 troops in the KNPP- designated area.
On June 30, fighting broke out at Kauk Kauk and Mae Su Rin confluence. Since that date, there have been intense military confrontations between the Karenni armed forces and SLORC troops. Hundreds of Karenni people have been abducted for slave porterage and our tractors, bullocks and horses have been requisitioned. More than 6 thousand more Karenni have been forced to flee to the already over-crowded camps at the Thai border area.
Now SLORC is proclaiming internationally that this clear violation of the Loikaw agreement is necessary to be able to attack the Mong Tai headquarters of Khun Sa. This cannot possibly be true, as attempting to launch such an attack from Karenni makes no military sense whatsoever. Clearly the facts speak for themselves -- SLORC has initiated a blatant attack on Karenni in order to neutralize our armed forces and subjugate our people. While we sit here, our Karenni people are dying from SLORC bullets and our Karenni backs are breaking under heavy SLORC military equipment and ammunition which will be used to kill the very people carrying them.
Mr. Chairman, the SLORC scheme of slave porterage is a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and is hence a war crime -- as grave as any presented to the Hague Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Our people have endured these war crimes for many years. Our women have been raped and are being raped today. Our children have no childhood -- by age 9 they are already abused by SLORC soldiers and forced to labour for them. Or our people languish in camps with no immunizations, few basic medicines and little hope for such luxuries as shelter, food or education. Quite frankly, we are dying.
Mr. Chairman, we urge you to undertake the following action regarding the Karenni situation and the situation in Burma:
1. Provide direct and immediate financial aid to Karenni and to the Karenni people in the border camps;
2. Ban absolutely all military materiel to SLORC;
3. Pressure the SLORC regime to honor the March 21 Liokaw agreement as a first step to resolving the long-standing Karenni situation;
4. Condemn publicly SLORC for serious violations of the Geneva Conventions by SLORC forces.
5. Pressure SLORC to comply with the Geneva Conventions, to respect fully all internationally-recognized human rights, and to turn over governance of Burma to the electoral winners of the 1990 elections;
6. Pressure all political leaders in Burma to address effectively the issue of the ethnic nationalities in Burma with a view to full realization of their rights and aspirations.
7. Pressure American companies to cease involvement with SLORC or Burma until democracy is restored and all the people of Burma and Karenni enjoy full human rights.