Call for Ireland pressure over Burma


Ireland should boycott the 2008 Olympics in Beijing if China doesn't use its influence on the political crisis in Burma, Trócaire said today.

The aid agency, which has worked in Burma since 1995, believes the Asian superpower is in a unique position to put an end to the brutality against pro-democracy demonstrators.

Trócaire director Justin Kilcullen today called on the Irish Olympic Committee to reconsider the participation of its athletes in next year's games.

UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari is meeting military leaders in Burma today - 24 hours after pro-democracy protests were held around the world.

Mr Kilcullen, who attended a Burma Action Ireland demo in Dublin yesterday, said: "When China was awarded the 2008 Olympics it was with the hope and expectation that the country would open up to the world and address human rights issues.

"However China hasn't kept up its side of the contract."

"If it doesn't act quickly, then Ireland needs to consider whether it should be represented in Beijing next year," Mr Kilcullen added.

Trocaire also urged the Irish government should use its influence with the international community to put pressure on the Burmese military regime to resolve this crisis peacefully.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern will raise the issue at the UN this week and also in talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington on Wednesday.

Mr Kilcullen also warned that the world cannot turn a blind eye to the human rights abuses happening in Burma.

"Despite the widely acknowledged illegitimacy of the ruling government, inadequate pressure has been applied from the international community.

"There is an urgent need for dialogue between the military government, the opposition government and ethnic minorities, the release of political prisoners and the cessation of military activities against civilians."

He called on China, India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to do more to engage with Burma.

Trocaire works with Burmese refugees and supports projects tackling HIV/AIDS, education and community development.

The Simon Cumbers Media Challenge Fund, which is grant-aided by Irish Aid, financed media projects in Burma in 2007.