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Burmese Civil Society Organizations Dismayed by Inter Pares

Joint-statement in support of Canadian Friends of Burma (CFOB)
December 7, 2012

We, the undersigned civil society organizations, are expressing our dismay with an Ottawa-based NGO, Inter Pares, for its unreasonable handling of a policy dispute with Canadian Friends of Burma (CFOB) on Burma's inter-communal conflicts. We appreciate the dedicated work of Inter Pares on the Thai-Burma border. However, we strongly object Inter Pares in the method and means employed in compelling CFOB to accept its preferred policy. Such action is unworthy of a social justice organization like Inter Pares and raises questions regarding its motives and ethical standards.  
 
A few weeks ago, we learned that CFOB is in crisis due to enormous pressure exerted by Inter Pares, with a series of actions aimed at bringing CFOB’s operations and its advocacy work to a halt for not agreeing to a contentious policy related to Burma. We are stunned about such a punitive move in a free and democratic country like Canada and the serious lack of  ‘tolerance over differences' – a political culture that Canadians are proud of, adhere to, promote and practice.
 
We affirm our solidarity with CFOB which stands firmly on its ground and fully support CFOB’s position embracing the recommendation of Burmese democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi .  She has articulated the urgent need for the rule of law to prevail and to put in place a process of verification for persons who have illegally immigrated into western parts of Burma.
 
Notwithstanding the fact that Burma only recently embarked on a long-awaited political reform process, all steps taken so far are still fragile and lack institutional underpinnings.  A longstanding and complicated inter-communal conflict such as the one we are witnessing in Rakhine State defies any quick and easy solutions as called for by organizations such as Inter Pares. All stakeholders in this huge international tragedy hold justifiable concerns regarding possible expansion of the conflict that could lead to a political backlash and derailment of the reform process in the country.
 
We urge Inter Pares to acknowledge and recognize the delicate political climate and to respect the concerns of the people of Burma. We also remind Inter Pares that their unscrupulous action against CFOB blurs the line between social justice advocates and political and ethnic entrepreneurs and raises serious ethical questions regarding their motives. We therefore call upon Inter Pares to be the true friend of Burma and understand the challenges that the country and all its citizens are facing.
 
List of endorsing organizations:

1.        Forum of Burmese in Europe (FBE)

2.        Burma Forum Canada

3.        All Burma Student's League (ABSL) - India

4.        The World Arakanese Organization (WAO)

5.        All Arakan Students' and Youths' Congress (AASYC) - Burma/Thailand

6.        Arakan Human Rights and Development Organization (AHRDO)  

7.        Anti-Dictatorship People's Freedom Movement in Burma

8.        Shan Progressive Society

9.        Burmese Christian Society in UK

10.     Burma Democratic Concern (BDC)

11.     Oxford Burma (Myanmar) Benefit Fund (UK)

12.     Chin Democratic Community

13.     Canadian Buddhist Council

14.     Canadian Buddhist Civil Liberties Association

15.     Canadian Interfaith Peace Council

16.     Arakan National Council (India)

17.     Democratic Party of Arakan (India)


Contacts:


-      Ms. Thet Thet Htun (Burma Forum Canada): 514-766-23780


-      Ms. Ohn Mar Oo (Burmese Democratic Concern - UK) at +44 7727236419


-      Rev. Karen Harrison, Canadian Buddhist minister at 416-604-5711


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