What This Council Can Do For the People of Burma

What This Council Can Do For the People of Burma

UN Watch Speech before UN Human Rights Council
Special Session on Human Rights Situation in Burma
2 October 2007

Delivered by Leon Saltiel, Director of Communications, UN Watch

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            Thank you, Mr. President.

            We gather here today to discuss the emergency situation in Burma.  The military regime cloaks its acts — and its shame — behind an iron curtain, and so we have no exact numbers of what has gone on in the past week.  But all of the smuggled reports confirm one thing:  a great many have been arrested, a great many have been killed.  We know that we are dealing with crimes against innocent civilians on a massive scale.

            But what can this Human Rights Council do?  This body has no power to send boots on the ground. It has no physical power whatsoever. One is reminded of the famous story told about Joseph Stalin.  On being warned that persecution of Catholics would anger the Pope, the Soviet dictator reportedly replied: “The Pope? And how many divisions does he have?”

            The brutal junta that rules Rangoon may well be looking at our emergency session and thinking the same thoughts.

            Mr. President, they would be wrong.

            History teaches us that a moral voice can move mountains.  We learned this from Mahatma Gandhi, whose birthday today is celebrated by the first UN International Day of Non-Violence. We learned this from Reverend Martin Luther King Junior, from Nelson Mandela, and indeed from Pope John Paul II, whose moral voice — armed only with truth and with principle — ultimately defeated the evils of Soviet totalitarianism.

            Mr. President, we cannot send troops. But we can send a message.

            And so today let us send a message to our brothers and sisters in Burma, who are suffering under the weight of oppression.  Let us send a message, loud and clear, that we stand in awe of their heroic and peaceful challenge to the tyranny, brutality, and terror of their government. We stand in awe of the heroic Buddhist monks. We stand in awe of the heroic Aung San Su Kyi. We will never be silent until their shackles are broken, until they are free.

            Let us send a message, also, to their wicked oppressors: When you trample the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, persecute the innocent, and murder your own people, the world will never forget your crimes.  Let us send a message and a warning:  Justice will come.

            We have no boots, we have no weapons, we have no divisions. But faith in justice, in freedom, and in human dignity is stronger than any steel.  Let this council do its part by adopting a firm resolution that will affirm this faith for the people of Burma.

            Thank you, Mr. President.

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