Special Rapporteur welcomes progress in Myanmar but says there is much more to be done
Monday, 05 November 2012 22:32




On 25 October 2012 the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Tomàs Oojea Quintana, presented his annual report to the General Assembly’s Third Committee. Mr Quintana commended the rapid pace of reforms and the considerable progress made in the area of human rights. However, he also stressed that the country continues to grapple with ongoing human rights issues that could pose risks to the reform process.


Mr Quintana highlighted in particular the tensions in Rakhine State and continuing allegations of human rights violations in conflict-affected ethnic border areas, including Kachin, where he received allegations of extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, internal displacement, torture, use of landmines and recruitment of child soldiers. Mr Quintana welcomed the recent release of prisoners of conscience but urged the Government to work with relevant stakeholders to identify those prisoners who remained in detention, noting their release must be without any conditions. He also pointed to disproportionate restrictions in the new Peaceful Demonstrations and Gathering Law and noted that, while restrictions on media and internet had eased, censorship and prosecution of journalists is still a problem. With regard to accountability measures, he recommended that consultations be held on the feasibility of a truth commission.


During the interactive dialogue, the representative from Myanmar noted that the Special Rapporteur's report could have been more constructive and that it is time to end the country-specific resolution on its human rights situation.


Asian States, including Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand and Japan generally commended the government on the progress made and welcomed the reforms. Malaysia reiterated that sanctions on the country should be lifted immediately. While other states were also supportive of the positive developments, their questions and comments were generally more balanced, stressing that the human rights situation still needs attention and improvement.


Several States including the US, the Czech Republic, the UK and Switzerland expressed concern about the recent violence in Rakhine State. The UK and Switzerland urged the government to provide unhindered humanitarian access. In response to the Special Rapporteur’s comments, Myanmar noted that the violence in Rakhine State has nothing to do with racial or religious oppression. However, the Special Rapporteur disagreed, stressing that the root cause of the situation is discrimination against Muslims, which he hoped the enquiry committee set up by the Government would investigate.


In closing, Mr Quintana reiterated the progress in Myanmar and the positive impact on human rights. He stressed that for any democratic transition to be successful, human rights must not be excluded from the Government’s political agenda, and that democracy must coincide with human rights and development. He recognized that the General Assembly had played an important role in the progress made, through resolutions and dialogue, and stated that the Government’s behaviour offered an example for the special procedures system.  He hoped to continue his work in that manner, as there was “much more to be done”.


Last Updated on Monday, 05 November 2012 22:42
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