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Celebrities Seek Action Against Myanmar

Actors and musicians including Tim Robbins and Peter Gabriel called on the U.N. Security Council Friday to approve its first resolution on Myanmar, whose military regime has waged a brutal offensive a
( [email protected] ) Dec 16, 2006 01:14 PM EST

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) - Actors and musicians including Tim Robbins and Peter Gabriel called on the U.N. Security Council Friday to approve its first resolution on Myanmar, whose military regime has waged a brutal offensive against ethnic minorities.

The appeal came in letters sent to the office of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan after nearly 500 activists gathered in New York earlier in the week to highlight the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, also known as Burma, the human rights group WITNESS said.

"It is past time for the issue of Burma to be addressed by the UN's most powerful body," the letters said. "In eastern Burma, over 3,000 villages have been destroyed, forcibly abandoned or forcibly relocated in the past 10 years."

The United States is circulating a draft Security Council resolution to press Myanmar's military government to change policies that constitute a threat to international peace and security.

The letters said the council should approve the resolution before the end of the year.

Celebrities who signed also included Kate Pierson of The B-52s, Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal, Nile Rodgers of the band Chic, Grammy-nominated Benin singer Angelique Kidjo and American singer Suzanne Vega.

Human rights groups say government troops have torched villages, killed civilians, raped women and herded villagers into military-controlled zones in an offensive against the Karen ethnic minority in eastern Myanmar.

The government, which denies committing atrocities, has waged a nearly year-long offensive to suppress an insurgency among the Karen.

The Thailand Burma Border Consortium, the main aid agency caring for tens of thousands of refugees along the Thai-Myanmar border, estimates that the violence has forced 82,000 people from their homes this year.

Since 1996, more than 3,000 villages have been destroyed or abandoned in eastern Myanmar, and more than 1 million people have been displaced, according to the agency's most recent report. Abuses have also occurred in other ethnic minority areas.

The U.S. and other countries have also urged the junta to free political prisoners including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest.

The U.S., which has slapped economic sanctions on Myanmar, faces a struggle in getting the Security Council to take tough action against the country. China and Russia strongly oppose putting the country on the agenda, and both are veto-wielding members of the Security Council.

The junta took power in 1988 after crushing the democracy movement led by Suu Kyi. In 1990, it refused to hand over power when Suu Kyi's party won a landslide election victory.

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