New Fine Gael Foreign Affairs Spokesman, Billy Timmins TD has certainly hit the ground running. Today he issued a press release on the crisis in Burma. The following is the text of the press statement:
The EU must lean on China, India, Thailand who are all facilitating suppression of democracy:
Fine Gael Foreign Affairs Spokesman, Billy Timmins TD, has today (Tuesday) denounced the Chinese Government for its tacit support of the oppressive Burmese Regime and called on the Minister for Foreign Affairs to raise the issue with his Chinese counterparts and bring it forward at an EU level.
Deputy Timmins added that, with the Beijing Olympics mere months away, a unique opportunity exists to persuade China to stop supporting the brutal Burmese junta.
"After eight days of mass protests across Burma, the courage and restraint of the protest leaders in the face of a despotic military junta is an inspiration to all those who wish to embrace democracy.
"However, the brutal oppression by the junta, as well as the continuing house arrest of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, demonstrates that the ruling military government has no intention to move towards democracy. International pressure through increased sanctions from the US and EU, as well as welcome comments today by George Bush and Gordon Brown, has been forthcoming but this has been hindered by the disgraceful stance of Burma's neighbours, particularly China.
"China props up the junta by developing an economic relationship as well as refusing to intervene with the junta despite the power the Chinese wield in the region. China has already prevented the adoption of a UN Security Council Motion on Burma in January and now Beijing is willfully turning a blind eye to the protests and suppression.
"Our Minister of Foreign Affairs must raise the issue of Burma with his Chinese counterparts, as well as India and Thailand and he must also demand that the EU intervenes with the Beijing Government. A unique opportunity exists with the Olympics just around the corner to put pressure on the Chinese and this must be grasped. Alongside this the EU should continue to expand direct humanitarian aid in the region as well as matching sanctions set by the USA.
"The march towards democracy in Burma has turned a corner with the addition of Buddhist monks. They have inspired a rekindling of mass peaceful protests and should be wholly encouraged. The only lasting solution is for the results of the free and fair elections in 1990 to be recognized - elections in which the National League for Democracy Party, under the leadership of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, won 82% of the seats - and for democracy to flourish."
This is a powerful statement which should form the basis for Government policy on Burma. It is nice to see FG formulate a policy based on ethical considerations.
There is now a unique opportunity in the run up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 to put pressure on China to change its policy not alone on Burma but also on Darfur. The Irish Government has been lax on this issue. Trade considerations alone must not govern Irish foreign policy. Failure to counter the the Nazi threat
in time encouraged Hitler and ultimately was responsible for World War 2. A policy of appeasement failed. The International Community must make it clear that it will not tolerate a violent suppression of the pro democracy movement in Burma. If the Chinese persist in supporting the Burmese junta and the oppression in Darfur, Western countries should pull their athletes out of the Beijing Olympics. The threat must be serious and the Chinese must be left in no doubt about the consequences.