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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 2/21/14

Burma needs good human rights records

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Burma or Myanmar has a bad record concerning topic of human rights to date. Human Rights Watch criticizes Burma's lately formed National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which has not take part in competent role to scrutinize human rights violations in conflict zones. In February 2012, the commission's chairman, U Win Mra, said that the commission would not look into allegations of abuses in the country's ethnic armed conflict areas due to the government's efforts to negotiate ceasefires.

HRW has also made a recommendation to the parliament which needed to pass legislation that would bring Myanmar's NHRC in line with the Paris Principles on national human rights institutions in order to establish it as an independent and effective institution. However, people do not satisfy with the NHRC's activities since it has made little progress for citizen's rights protection.

Recently, the Network for Human Rights Documentation -- Burma (ND-Burma) has released a periodic report documenting the human rights situation in Burma or Myanmar during the period of July 2013 -- December 2013. The report focuses on 106 cases of human rights violations (HRVs) committed by the government and its supporters in the 14 states and regions throughout the country.

There are many serious human rights violations addressed and highlighted in the report; torture, extra-judicial killing, illegal arrests and detention, arbitrary taxation, property crimes, forced labor, trafficking, forced displacement and rape.

ND-Burma's recent report says that while on a tour to Europe, President U Thein Sein promised to release all political prisoners by the end of 2013 and declared that there would never again be any political prisoners in the country. Yet, by the time of composing the report, there are 33 political prisoners imprisoned in reference to "The Review Committee for Remaining Political Prisoners'.

Even though most political prisoners were released under section (18) and section 505-b, they were not free unconditionally but released under section 401, the report says. These conditions mean that human rights and political activists can still be re-arrested at any time. The Government is yet to abolish or amend this law. Then ND-Burma highlights that campaigners and human rights advocates constantly urge the government to take steps towards abolishing these unjust and undemocratic laws.

ND-Burma documented 27 cases of forced labour, 26 cases of land confiscation and 21 cases of torture. The violations were committed as direct result of on-going armed conflict and the military involvement in trade and industry.

According to the report, "The confiscation and destruction of property that ND-Burma has reported through the efforts of field workers has been reflected by the growing number of reports in recent news out of Burma. The weakness of the 2012 Farmland Law has allowed the government and closely linked businesses to continue to commit these HRVs unabated."

As Burma has been carrying out democratic reform process, it should strictly pay attention to make a good human rights record. The government needs to cautiously review on "Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar' which was released by United Nations Human Rights Council on March 19, 2013.

The UNHRC expresses concern about remaining human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, forced displacement, land confiscations, rape and other forms of sexual violence, torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, as well as violations of international humanitarian law, and urges the Government of Myanmar to step up its efforts to put an end to such violations and to take necessary measures to ensure accountability and end impunity, including by undertaking a full, transparent and independent investigation into all reports of violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law, while also calling for proper investigations into detention and prison conditions and allegations of the use of torture in prisons.

In March last year, Tomás Ojea Quintana, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar called on the Government of Myanmar to take urgent steps to tackle the prejudice and discrimination fueling violence and destruction between Muslim and Buddhist communities, as said by the UN News Center. 

He called on other institutions such as Parliament, the Supreme Court and the National Human Rights Commission to play their role in protecting constitutionally guaranteed rights, including freedom of religion, as well as the need to include civil society and political parties to tackle prejudice and discrimination.

In its conclusion, the ND-Burma Report says that U Thein Sein called for a nation-wide cease-fire with the ethnic armed groups to implement a peace negotiation process; however, there are still serious human rights violations taking place on a daily basis in ethnic areas. These human right violations are not only taking place in conflict zones but also in ethnic areas where they have already signed cease-fire agreements. For instance there were over 150 clashes of offensive incidents in Shan State that are under RCSS/SSA control in 2013, as said by the report.

Such rights abuses committed by government armed forces would not help to implant trust in the relationships between Government and ethnic armed groups. Even though the government has released several political prisoners, the report criticizes that it continues to re-arrest political activists who made protest without permission under the section 18.

As a matter of fact, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission has a massive responsibility to scrutinize human rights violations of the government. Besides, Myanmar has to do more on human rights rule and regulation clearly. If the government officials breach the laws, the relevant officials have to keep an eye on and call attention to violations. The formation of the MNHRC seems totally against international standards. This Human Rights body must be formed with independent human rights experts.

In a statement dated 13 July 2013 ahead of President U Thein Sein's visit to London, HRW says that there are various human rights risks to do business in Burma/Myanmar. These include the lack of rule of law and an independent judiciary, major tensions over the acquisition and use of land, and disregard of community concerns in government-approved projects. The military's extensive involvement in the economy, use of forced labor, and abusive security practices in business operations heightens concerns. Corruption is pervasive throughout the country, the watchdog criticizes.

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Zin Linn was born on February 9, 1946 in a small town in Mandalay Division. He began writing poems in 1960 and received a B.A (Philosophy) in 1976. He became an activist in the High School Union after the students' massacre on 7th July 1962. (more...)

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