Friday, October 19, 2007

Is it time to scrap the United Nations Security Council?

Burma is truly a human rights disaster. The violence and brutality meted out routinely to dissidents show the military leaders do not treat their people with any decent respect. Now even children and pregnant women are chained up and heavily guarded by soldiers. No reconciliation talks with the junta will work.

So what’s the point of sending Gambari for the second time in November, when the United Nations and Gambari know more Burmese people are still going to be tortured and killed during the meantime. Is it not time to scrap the United Nations Security Council for its inability to resolve the situation with a harder stance?

The following article was obtained from The Age:

AN AMERICAN tourist has told of seeing children and pregnant women among the families of pro-democracy supporters, chained together and under heavy guard on a river ferry deep inside Burma.

The encounter indicates for the first time that a crackdown on dissidents now probably extends to their relatives and is being carried out in a thorough and ruthless fashion by the ruling military junta, even in remote parts of the country.

Tourist Scott Herbstman, 41, from New York, said: "These were the families of people who had been arrested during the protests in Yangon. They were in fear for their lives. From the look on their faces and their frequent tears, it was clear that they believed they were travelling to almost certain death."

One of the shackled women was nine months pregnant, he said. Another prisoner indicated through hand signals that she, too, was pregnant. Four children were among those chained, he added. A two-year-old child and the wife of one young prisoner, whom he believed to be a democracy activist, accompanied the group, free of handcuffs.

Mr Herbstman, who travels extensively in Asia, Africa and South America for six months each year, said: "It was a nightmarish encounter. We couldn't help but feel sorry for these people." He and his Thai girlfriend, Jitnah Jintanaporn, were making a journey down the Irrawaddy, having begun their trip in the remote north, close to the river's source. Over three days and nights, sitting on a slow, crowded ferry, Mr Herbstman managed to ascertain details from the prisoners, in spite of the constant presence of guards armed with machine guns.

"There were 10 men, 10 women and four boys in chains," he said. "The youngest was about eight. Because there was no room on the boat, they were placed next to us and we had to walk through the group whenever we went to the toilet. The prisoners were kept in pairs, handcuffed together. "They would be taken to the toilet in pairs, escorted each time by three guys carrying machine guns. There were about 15 armed guards all told."

Mr Herbstman said that because the Irrawaddy ferries are so slow and unreliable, tourists seldom used them. The encounter took place on a stretch of the river between Pyay and Yangon. The prisoners boarded at Magwe and Mr Herbstman learned that the prisoners were bound for a detention centre in Tayet.

In Rangoon, the military-run Government freed the country's top comedian, Zaganar, and an actor who had been arrested for supporting Buddhist monks in anti-Government protests. Zaganar, actor Kyaw Thu and his wife were freed on Wednesday, one of their colleagues said.

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