KIRK: LEADERS SAY UK MUST ENSURE DEMOCRACY IS RESTORED IN MAYANMAR (BURMA)

Pattern makers from Denny’s Engine Shop in Dumbarton who went to work in Burma.

By Bill Heaney and Cameron Brooks

The Church of Scotland is urging the UK Government to use diplomacy to try and ensure that democracy is restored in Myanmar.

The Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the General Assembly, said people were “shocked” by the military coup that overthrew the elected government and placed leaders including State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest.

The Church of Scotland and the Presbyterian Church of Ireland (PCI), which have both worked in partnership with the Presbyterian Church in Myanmar (PCM) for many years, have written a letter to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab MP.

Dr Fair and Rt Rev Dr David Bruce, Moderator of PCI, have urged him to intervene to ensure that the result of the November election in the south-east Asian country is “fully respected”.

Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide but the military is back in charge of the country and has declared a year-long state of emergency.

Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar gained independence from Britain in 1948. Dumbarton shipyard workers from Denny’s were employed there building long low draught vessels including river ferries worshipped at Kirk charges before the Second World War.

And the story of a young Dumbarton man, who was sent there by his father to avoid a marriage between himself and a woman of a different faith, is included Hatter’s Castle, a novel by best-selling author AJ Cronin, pictured right, who lived in Round Riding Road, and went to school local in the old Academy building in Church Street and later to St Aloysius College in Glasgow.

Church leaders say the historical and cultural bonds between the two countries are strong therefore the UK Government should take a leading role in building an international diplomatic response.

The letter to Dominic Raab, the UK Foreign Secretary, states: “Our shock at the news of the military coup on the first of February was all the sharper because of our concern for our friends in PCM and the implications of the takeover by General Min Aung Hlaing.

“Myanmar suffered 49 years of brutal military rule that ended as recently as 2011.

“In the past decade people have enjoyed increasing freedoms, some political progress and increased, if imperfect, economic growth.

“The fate of the Rohingya people shows that not all in Myanmar are treated equally.”

Police water cannon have been tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets against the coup over the last five days, despite a recent ban on large gatherings and a night curfew.

Rubber bullets and there are media reports today that a woman was allegedly shot in the head with a live round in the country’s capital, Nay Pyi Taw.

The letter goes on: “We fully endorse a statement released by PCM in condemning oppression and calling for the release from house arrest of the State Counsellor, President and other elected leaders without exception.

We join with PCM in urging the authorities not to cause any harm anyone in the Civil Disobedience Movement who are pursuing non-violent means of protest.”

Low draught ferries built by Denny’s workers in Burma in the 1930s.

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