Timor-Leste NGOs demonstrate in solidarity with people of Burma

14 October 2005 is an International Day of Action against the Shwe Gas Project in Burma. Because the South Korean government and Korea-based Daewoo International Corporation are deeply involved in this project, which has caused numerous violations of human rights and supports the Myanmar military dictatorship, people around the world brought their concerns to Daewoo office and Korean embassies. For more information about the Shwe Project, see www.shwe.org.

In Dili, Timor-Leste, about 25 people brought a letter to the Korean Embassy. Although the Ambassador declined to meet with them, his political officer accepted the letter and discussed the issue with Maria Angelina Sarmento, Executive Director of the Timor-Leste NGO Forum. He declined to state a position or acknowledge the responsibility of the government of Korea.

Many local journalists covered the event, which included signs and a press conference in front of the Embassy.

Click on any of these photos to see it larger:

Timor-Leste demonstrators stand outside the South Korean Embassy in Dili, Timor-Leste.Maria Angelina Sarmento of the Timor-Leste NGO Forum presents a letter about Korea's involvement in human rights violations in Burma to an embassy official.

The Korean embassy would not open the gate, but made protesters stand outside the fence.

Translation of signs (L-R):
Stop Human Rights Violations in Burma.

Stop Forced Labor in Burma -- Solidarity Forum for Burma

Timor Solidarity Forum for People of Burma

Justino da Silva of the NGO Forum reading the letter to protesters and journalists.Maria Angelino Sarmento speaking with journalists outside the embassy.

The following is the English text of the letter to the embassy.

Forum Solidaridade Timor-Leste ba Povu Burma
Timor-Leste Forum in Solidarity with the People of Burma

Contact: FONGTIL; +670 7240107 or TILCAP + 670 7278653

14 October 2005

His Excellency Mr. Jin Kyu Ryoo
Embassy of the Republic of Korea
Avenida de Portugal, Motael, Dili, Timor-Leste

Dear Excellency,

On behalf of the undersigned Timor-Leste nongovernmental organizations, who include members of the Timor-Leste NGO Forum (FONGTIL), Timor-Leste in Coalition with Asia-Pacific (TILCAP), and the OilWatch Network, we are writing to express our concern for people affected by the Shwe Gas Project in Burma. This project supports the brutal military dictatorship in Burma and inflicts numerous human rights violations on local people.

The Korean Government, Korea Gas Company and Daewoo International Corporation are all deeply involved in this project. We urge you to use your influence with these powerful institutions to ask them to immediately end their participation.

Today, we join the global outcry against this devastating gas project by participating in the call by the people of Arakan state, Burma, for an International Day of Action against the Shwe gas project. We are here to express our solidarity with the struggle for democracy and human rights by the people of Burma. When Timor-Leste struggled against the Indonesian occupation of our country, people around the world -- including in Korea -- stood in solidarity with us and helped us attain our freedom.

The Shwe Gas project may be the single largest source of revenue for the military dictatorship which oppresses the people of Burma. By participating in this project, Korea facilitates that repression. We urge you to stop your complicity with this brutal regime.

Recent oil and gas projects in Burma are carried out with widespread violations of human rights, including confiscation of land, uprooting of communities, forced labor and violence, including torture, murder and rape. The Shwe project is no exception. We do not believe that the Government of Korea, Korea Gas Corporation or Daewoo International wants to make money that is contaminated with blood from these crimes, and we urge you to end your involvement.

Over the last twenty years, Korea and Timor-Leste have both emerged from military dictatorships to become peaceful democracies. Your people and ours know well the necessity to struggle to attain and protect human rights, and the importance of international solidarity in that struggle. But during the same period, the military dictatorship in Burma has tightened its grip and increased the oppression of its people.

Timor-Leste, Korea and Burma have something else in common: our countries have leaders who have received the Nobel Peace Prize. One has been President of the Republic of Korea, another is Timor-Leste’s Minister for Foreign Affairs. But the military dictatorship has kept Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest and repressed her supporters for decades, even though Burma’s voters elected her President.

Therefore, we urge the Government of the Republic of Korea and Daewoo International to stop their economic and political support for the Myanmar dictatorship by terminating their involvement in the Shwe Gas project.

Thank you for your concern, and we look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Signed by representatives of the following Non-Governmental and Student Organizations:
Asosiasaun HAK
Bibi Bulak
CPD-RDTL
Fokupers
Forum Communication University
Forum University of TL (FUTL)
Grupo Feto Foinsa TL (GFFTL)
Ikatan Mahasiswa Bobonaro (Kesdib)
Ikatan Mahasiswa Viqueque (QUISFIK)
Instituto Sahe ba Libertasaun (SIL)
Judicial System Monitoring Programme (JSMP)
Kdadalak Sulimutuk Institute (KSI)
La’o Hamutuk
Labor Advocacy Institute for East Timor (LAIFET)
Liga Foinsa ba Liberta Povo (LISFLIPO)
Movimento Juventude Estudante Lautem (MUJEDTIMO)
Pergerakan Solidaritas Mahiasiswa TL (PSMTL)
Radio Rakambia
Rede Feto
Sekolah Tinggi Ilmu Hukum
Senat ARI
Senat Maulear
Senate UNDIL
Senate UNTL
Uniaun Estudante Distrito Ainaro
Unidade Universatariu Lautem (UNILAU)