August 2015 report on Burma & North Korea

Letterwriting:

  • We signed 37 letters at the July meeting and as we are not having another meeting until Tuesday 1September, I have signed a number of letters on your behalf. Sadly the case of the execution of David Zink came in too late for us to take action and he was executed in Missouri on 14 July despite having brain damage and a history of psychological problems. The US have killed 18 people this year, 5 of them in Missouri.
  • After our letter with regard to 14 student activists in Thailand held in prison for peaceful protests, I am pleased to say they have been released but still face trial. Two Chinese activists about whom we also wrote, have also been released.

Burma:

  • This is what Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonweath Affairs said recently: “UK officials frequently visit Rakhine State and receive regular reports about the situation of the Rohingya, which remains of grave concern. The Rohingya continue to suffer from severe restrictions on their freedom of movement, on their access to livelihoods, schools, healthcare and places of worship. Burma’s refusal to ensure humanitarian access or recognise citizenship claims of the Rohingya has compounded the denial of the most basic rights. We continue to urge the Burmese authorities to work towards a long-term solution that brings peace and reconciliation and ensures the civil and human rights of all communities within Rakhine State, including full citizenship for the Rohingya. The UK has been concerned by the dramatic rise in the number of people taking boats from the Bay of Bengal to the wider region this year. We were deeply concerned by the discovery of mass graves in Thailand and, more recently, in Malaysia. Tackling this issue requires a coordinated regional response and we welcome the Government of Thailand’s decision to hold the 29 May regional meeting to discuss solutions. It is vital to address the scourge of human trafficking. The desperate living conditions faced by the Rohingya in particular, and their lack of basic rights, are driving many of these people to make the dangerous journey to other countries in the region. We will maintain our own humanitarian commitment in Rakhine State; DFID has provided over £18million in humanitarian support since 2012. We urge Burma, in turn, to address the dire situation of the Rohingya community there.”
  • In this regard, Thailand has prosecuted more than 100 people including an army general and 15 state officials implicated in a multinational migrant smuggling scandal which came to light when 36 bodies were discovered on the Thai/Malay border in May and believed to be from Burma and Bangladesh.

North Korea:

  • SK foreign minister has spoken of a “reign of terror” which has led to fresh defections of NK workers. In the 3.5years in power Kim Jong Un has executed 70 high-level officials as well as others including the manager of a terrapin farm after several terrapins died after a power cut.
  • The UN has reported that the NK government has reduced the amount of food it gives its people with regard to the drought.
  • Government workers, including those in factories and schools, have been ordered to start work at 5am to cope with the heat which is in the high 30’s with 80% humidity but which is making it difficult for children to get to school on time.

Wendy Hughes

Burma & N. Korea Co-Ordinator, August, 2015

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