Rapporteur on Rights and Reforms
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Rapporteur on Rights and Reforms

By THE IRRAWADDY Sunday, December 4, 2011

(Page 2 of 3)

Also, I don’t see any government agency ready to start addressing the problems of discrimination, and the endemic situation of Rohingyas is a clear example.

As one of the results from my last mission in August 2011, the government established a National Human Rights Commission. I saw this commission playing an interesting role in the release of some political prisoners, but we need to see much more proactive initiatives on its side. Besides, the problem of its lack of independence, if not addressed, might compromise its future performance.

I don’t want to forget economic, social and cultural rights, critically ignored for decades in Myanmar. Together with the need for substantive investments in areas such as education, health, food and housing, the establishment of a new economic system seems to be a challenge, and I hope that principles of equity and social welfare have significant relevance, and lessons learnt from international crises have due consideration.

Q: The government has recently signed temporary ceasefires with some ethnic groups such as the Shan and Wa, based along Sino-Burma border. And it recently held peace talks with ethnic Kachin militias. But all these peace efforts seem as fragile as in the past. How would you suggest the Burmese government handles these ethnic issues?

A: For many years in Myanmar, the military held an authoritarian government which, under the justification of stability, particularly in border areas, committed systematic and gross human rights abuses.

A formally civilian government now has assumed power and the conflict situation in border areas is still unresolved. This must be a priority, and the challenge is, therefore, to initiate a peace process under the premises of civilian and democratic values. This means that the military has to move out of the scene.

I see a simultaneous process where the military starts a process of reform, as I recommended in my first reports, and the civilian authorities bring a substantive and comprehensive plan towards achieving peace and reconciliation. This plan must include guarantees of ethnic minorities’ fundamental rights, measures against discrimination, resource sharing, socio-economic development policies, and greater regional autonomy in managing affairs.

The prospects of a national conference on the issue will depend on the substance of the agenda.

At the same time, the control of the military by the civilian authority has to gradually increase, and practices that lead to human rights abuses must change dramatically. As a crucial step, measures to end prevailing and historic impunity need to be developed. 

In addition, at this new political stage in Myanmar, access to conflict areas, both humanitarian and human rights, must increase. I hope in my next planned mission, February 2012, I will find an opening in this respect.

Q: With Burma's tentative reforms process apparently moving forward, do you still view it relevant to call for the formation of a UN-led International Commission of Inquiry into allegations of crimes against humanity in Burma?

A: It is not clear that the recently established National Human Rights Commission has the competence to address accountability for systematic human rights violations.

In my next planned mission to the country in February next year, I will have the chance to contact this Commission and discuss fact-finding prerogatives and resources, independence, and relationship with the judiciary. I will then present my report to the Human Rights Council in March.

As I repeatedly stressed, truth, justice and accountability is primarily the responsibility of the state, but the international community has also obligations in this respect.

I don’t see concrete and substantive discussions and debates among stakeholders in Myanmar in respect to the problem of impunity. I hope at some point it starts to grow, because ending endemic impunity should be in the interest of the state and the Myanmar society as a fundamental pillar in building a lasting democratic system under the rule of law.
Q: Will closer ties between the United States and Burma have an impact on your independent role as UN Special Human Rights Rapporteur for Burma?

A: Independent Special Rapporteurs are mandated by the Human Rights Council, and the United States of America is a member of this body. Bilateral relationships between states have correspondence with international relationships at the UN.

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Ohn Wrote:
Unfortunately what BaGyi wrote is true. We are CURRENTLY seeing the largest number of troops in the recent times in largest area of Burma than ever with largest number of people killed and maimed with amazing speed. Yet the responsibility lie not just on the military who are well known cowards ans thugs all along, but also on the now VOCAL so-called opposition who are prepared to put up so long as they can get in the cartoon like parliament for weird reasons.

The brave and right initiation of Daw Bauk Ja is unfortunately going to be not well supported yet it a million times more important than the American visit.

For the lack of understanding of what is important and what is mirage, the killings will get worse and will be more widespread.

Ohn Wrote:
In the movie "The Leopard" by Visconti it was said " If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change." The military learned well. They simply change the colour and the tactics. And they are at the top as they always have been.

One should ask the question, who is making the rules now, who is enforcing it and who are the people affected by it. The answers to those questions have not changed for the last 20 years and still hold true.

If the public is willing to swallow the lies and deceit of the military, being busy by oneself with such details as the count of prisoners and or child soldiers is the best one could do. As there will be no real change at all.

Until the public are brave enough to see through the lies and deceit and ask for real change, it will not accidentally happen.

naing win Wrote:
It will take time to cure endemic specialy Rohingya.More than 50% parlimentry member don,t want to stablish democratic in Burma.We should struggle and workhard for democracy.

KML Wrote:
" all Burmese people owe these men and women behind bars ( political prisoners of the past and the present) for the opportunity for a meaningful democratic transition, and the prospect for a better future". We all Burmese should hang this beautiful phrase on the wall of our homes as well as on the walls of government buildings.

KML Wrote:
" I don’t see any government agency ready to start addressing the problems of discrimination, and the endemic situation of Rohingyas is a clear example." Absolutely right. Ye Myint Aung is still sitting in Geneva office.

Norman Hla Wrote:
Dear Prof Tomas OQ,
You will realize that you all(US,UN) can't do anything for those decade long human right abuse and war crime against than shwe although you have strong evidences. Instead of wasting your time and effort, try to save ethnics before too late by recognizing the ethnics' independence and autonomy. Then, UN can take action on than shwe's military thugs for foreign invasion. We, all are fed up with your lip-service or thousands of engagements with than shwe. You all now delay our democratic spirit and uprising.

BaGyi Wrote:
The Burmese rulers are too stingy to delegate even very limited authorities to the locals. We Kachin wants only to delegate reasonable administrative authorities to us, we do not even ask for the resource sharing. The atrocities in the Shan Kachin Karen areas are unspeakable and has been going on for five decades. Kachins are attacked at the scale of foreign invasion under this democratic guise Government of the War mongers. Now UNFC Army is in formation. Serious civil wars in all fronts (not yet ever experienced in the Burmese history) is imminent. If not handle wisely, millennium old civilization will be destroyed to the dust.

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