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YOKOTA ORAL REPORT TO UNGA
STATEMENT OF MR. YOZO YOKOTA. SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR OF THE
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN
MYANMAR TO THE FIFTIETH SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
I am here before you for the fourth time since the creation
of my mandate by the Commission on Human Rights in March 1992.
And, for the fourth time, I have the duty to bring to your
attention any progress made towards the restoration of democracy
and protection of human rights in Myanmar.
Mr. President, In the interim report which is brought before
your Assembly, I provided on the basis of the information
received a summary of allegations reported to have occurred in
Myanmar during this last year. This includes: summary executions,
arbitrary detention, torture and forced labour. On purpose, I did
not draw any conclusions or recommendations in my interim report.
To do so I found it necessary, in accordance with Commission on
Human Rights and General Assembly resolutions, to establish or
continue direct contact with the Government and people of Myanmar
in order to verify the information received and to analyze its
content. To my regret, however, such direct contacts in the form
of a visit to Myanmar and Thailand were not possible before the
deadline for the submission of the interim report.
Mr. President, At the invitation of the Government of
Myanmar by a letter of the Minister for Foreign Affairs dated 8
September 1995, I undertook a visit to the Union of Myanmar from
8 to 17 October 1995. From 17 to 20 October 1995, I visited and
met with some Myanmar ethnic minorities in Thailand, along the
Thai/Myanmar border, to ascertain the situation of human rights
within Myanmar for these ethnic minorities, namely: Karenni,
Shan and Karen.
While in Yangon, my office, accommodation and local
transport were provided by the UNDP Office in Myanmar, to which I
wish to express my deep gratitude.
Mr. President, I wish to note with special gratitude that
the Government of Myanmar facilitated the visit, including the
travel within Myanmar to Kachin State, in Myitkyina and Eastern
Shan State, in Kyaingtone and to Myitkina and Insein prisons, and
extended me many courtesies.
During this visit, I was received by a number of high-level
government officials including Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt,
Secretary One of the State Law and Order Restoration Council
(SLORC), the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Chief
Justice, the Minister for Information, the Minister for National
Planning and Economic Development, the Minister for Home Affairs
and other high level authorities.
During my stay in Yangon, I also had the opportunity to meet
twice with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at her private home. Former NLD
Chairmen U Kyi Maung and U Tin Oo, the actual Chairman and other
NLD representatives were also present.
During these meetings, I enjoyed a frank, open and lengthy
exchange of views which touched upon most issues of concern for
restoration of democracy and respect of human rights in Myanmar.
I was informed about the new composition of the Executive
Committee of the National League for Democracy which is as
follows: U Aung Shwe as Chairman; U Kyi Maung and U Tin Oo as
Deputy-Chairmen. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as General-Secretary and U
Lwin as Secretary.
According to NLD leaders only peace, public order and
dialogue may lead to democratisation. Therefore, as a mature
political party, NLD does not want to return to the situation
which was prevailing in 1988 or to act in vengeance. As a
responsible political party, NLD is able to control its
supporters. Their only aim is to promote a genuine dialogue with
the Government of Myanmar.
While in Myanmar, I also had the opportunity to see the
representatives of three political parties participating in
the National Convention, namely the Union Kayene League, the
National League for Democracy and the National Unity Party. In
spite of my strong and repeated requests to meet with them in
private at my office in the UNDP compound in Yangon, I regret to
say that, this year again, the meetings with these political
leaders were arranged to take place at a Government guest house.
The location and atmosphere were not conducive to a free and
unencumbered exchange of views.
With regard to the detention of political prisoners I must
express my disappointment that this year, despite a formal
written request before going to Myanmar and despite my repeated
requests while in Myanmar, I was not permitted to see any such
prisoner either in Insein prison or in Myitkina Jail.
With regard to the National Convention, I was not able to
observe its meetings because it was not in session when I visited
Myanmar this time. However, information from reliable sources
indicates that it is not heading towards restoration of
democracy. I am particularly disappointed to learn that the
Government has not yet distributed the Myanmar language version
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to all delegates to
the National Convention.
At the completion of my visit to Myanmar, I proceeded from
17 to 20 October 1995 to Thailand, to visit displaced persons
from Myanmar in the area of Mae Hong Son and Mae Sariang where I
established or continued contact with the people of Myanmar
living in camps. Let me also take this opportunity to express my
deep gratitude to the Government of Thailand who facilitated my
visit to the camps.
Mr. President, I now wish to summarize my observations on
the human rights situation in Myanmar on the basis of the
allegations received, my recent visit to that country and
Thailand and of the information received from various sources,
including the Government officials and people of Myanmar, staff
members of the United Nations and other specialized agencies,
staff members of active human rights and humanitarian non-
governmental organizations, foreign government officials,
journalists, scholars and students.
Since there has been no time to study carefully the
information and documents collected during my visits to Myanmar
and Thailand these observations will have to be still preliminary
in nature. The full account of my findings, observations and
recommendations will be reflected in my final report to the
Commission on Human Rights, which I intend to submit at the
beginning of next year.
First of all there are some developments which may lead to
improvements in the human rights situation in that country.
a. The Government of Myanmar continued to release political
prisoners in 1995 although the exact number could not be
verified. I was particularly pleased to note that among these
released detainees were two prominent political party leaders
from the National League for Democracy, U Kyi Maung and U Tin
Oo, the latter of whom I met in Insein Prison in 1993 and 1994.
I have also welcomed with great satisfaction the
announcement made on 10 July 1995, that restrictions on Daw Aung
San Suu Kyi were lifted by the Government of Myanmar and that she
has been released. I am particularly pleased to note that she was
released without conditions and is now free to meet with people
and free to travel within the country.
b. Since the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi a crowd of two to
three thousand people is gathering every weekend, Saturdays and
Sundays, outside the gate of her residence to hear what Daw Aung
San Suu Kyi and other leaders say. During my visit to Myanmar, I
witnessed personally one of these gatherings. The atmosphere was
peaceful and the crowd of supporters were disciplined. To my
knowledge none of these meetings had disorder. To my knowledge
none of the supporters was threatened or arrested for having
attended such meetings.
Yet I have to state that last week, on Saturday 18 November,
among the crowd which gathered that day to listen to Daw Aung San
Suu Kyi's speech, I have been informed by reliable sources that
three NLD members were arrested for having intervened with the
police who were erecting barricades in front of her house.
According to the information received, the three persons were
charged with assaulting a police officer and were reportedly
sentenced two days later to two year's imprisonment. Although I
have no details of the trial proceedings it would appear that the
accused could not possibly mount an effective defense with regard
to the legal and factual basis for the arrest and incarceration
in such a short period of time.
c. Cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is continuing and more than
190,000 Myanmar refugees out of an estimated total of about
250,000 have so far been repatriated from neighbouring
d. The Government is expanding cooperation with various other
United Nations bodies and specialized agencies such as UNDP,
UNICEF and UNDCP. Year after year, the work of the humanitarian
non-governmental organizations is slowly expanding. Now, these
organisations are allowed to implement programmes outside Yangon
and are able to reach out to grass-root people who suffer from
shortage or lack of food, safe water, medicine, medical care and
e. In cities like Yangon, Myitkyina and Kyaingtone, I observed
that there were visible signs of relaxation of tension in the
life of the people. It seems that people generally enjoy normal
life. There were many consumer goods in market places where many
shoppers crowded. Physical developments in the construction or
improvement of roads, bridges, buildings and railways are taking
place throughout the country and in some boarder areas. However,
just as last year, I was informed that only a small portion of
the population enjoy the improved life and the majority who were
poor rather suffered from higher prices of basic necessity goods
such as rice and medicine.
f. On the particular question of forced labour, I was informed
during my recent mission to Myanmar that the SLORC had issued a
"secret directive" to discourage the practice of forced labour. I
am hopeful that this directive would be implemented rigorously.
g. As Special Rapporteur, I welcome the signature of several
cease-fire agreements between the Government of Myanmar and
different ethnic minorities. This is without doubt a positive
step towards peace. Needless to say, such agreements should be
faithfully respected by both parties.
Mr. President, In spite of these developments, I have the
duty to state that there are still many restrictions on
fundamental freedoms and serious violations of human rights
continuing in Myanmar.
a. As mentioned above, I welcome the recent release of a number
of political prisoners. However, I remain concerned about the
fact that there are still more than several hundred persons
imprisoned or detained for reasons of political activities. I am
also concerned about the prevalence of a complex array of
security laws which allow the Government sweeping powers of
arbitrary arrest and detention. These laws include the 1950
Emergency Provisions Act, the 1975 State Protection Law, the 1962
Printers and Publishers Registration Law, the 1923 Official
Secrets Act and the 1908 Unlawful Association Act.
Various articles in these laws continue to be used in
combination to prosecute a number of individuals who were
exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association.
The combination of charges under these laws included ones such as
writing and distributing what were described as "illegal
leaflets, spreading false information injurious to the state" and
"contact with illegal organisations". I understand that due to
such laws and other SLORC orders the activities of the political
parties, particularly the NLD, are severely restricted.
b. Severe court sentences for some political leaders have been
reported and confirmed. Information from reliable sources
indicates that there are problems in the field of the
administration of justice with regard to fair trials, free access
to defense lawyers, proportionality between the acts committed
and the punishment applied and time for careful examination of
the case by courts.
c. The non-acceptance by Myanmar of ICRC's customary procedures
for visits to places of detention is a negative step towards
amelioration of their conditions.
d. There are still cases of torture, arbitrary killings, rapes,
and confiscation of private property according to testimony and
evidence acquired by me. They seem to be taking place most
frequently in border areas by military soldiers in the course of
military operations, forced relocations and development projects.
Many of the victims of such atrocious acts belong to ethnic
national populations, especially women, peasants, daily wage
earners and other peaceful civilians who do not have enough money
to avoid mistreatment by bribing.
e. I am gravely concerned at the continued reports of forced
porterage, forced labour and forced relocation which are still
occurring in border areas where the Army is engaged in military
operations or where "regional development projects" are taking
a. As Special Rapporteur, I urge the Government of Myanmar to
sign and ratify the Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Optional Protocol to
the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment and the Convention on the Elimination of
All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
b. The Government of Myanmar should comply with the obligations
under the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No.
29 prohibiting the practice of forced portering and other forced
c. Myanmar law should be brought into line with accepted
international standards regarding protection of the physical
integrity rights. Among these international standards are the
right to life, prohibition of torture, providing humane
conditions for all persons under detention and insurance of the
minimum standards of judicial guarantee.
d. The Government of Myanmar should take steps to facilitate
and guarantee enjoyment of the freedoms of opinion, expression
and association, in particular by decriminalizing the expression
of oppositional views, relinquishing government control over the
media and literary and artistic communities, and permitting the
formation of independently organised trade unions.
e. All persons including elected political representatives,
students, workers, peasants, monks and others arrested or
detained under martial law after the 1988 and 1990 demonstrations
or as a result of the National Convention, should be tried by a
properly constituted and independent civilian court in an open
and internationally accessible judicial process. If found guilty
in such judicial proceedings. they should be given a just
sentence; alternatively, they should be immediately released and
the Government refrain from all acts of intimidation. threats or
reprisals against them or their families.
f. As Special Rapporteur. I recommend the Government of Myanmar
to repeal or amend as appropriate the relevant provisions which
at present prevent the ICRC from carrying out its humanitarian
activities as regards the prison visits. In this regard. I
encourage the Government of Myanmar, in a spirit of humanitarian
goodwill, to re-invite the presence in Myanmar of the
International Committee of the Red Cross in order to carry out
their purely humanitarian tasks.
g. The Government of Myanmar should publicise the "secret
directive" which discourages the practice of forced labour. This
will indicate the intention and the will of the Government of
Myanmar to effectively prohibit and suppress forced labour.
Moreover, wide dissemination of the existence of the directive
would promote awareness that forced labour is neither condoned
h. The Government of Myanmar should without delay resume its
dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
i. As Special Rapporteur, I call upon the Government of Myanmar
to resolve peacefully its difficulties with ethnic minorities and
to take all appropriate measures to ensure respect for human
rights and humanitarian obligations in the situation of armed
conflicts between the Myanmar Army and the armed ethnic groups.
j. The Government of Myanmar should distribute copies of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the Myanmar language to
all delegates to the National Convention which is to be
reconvened tomorrow, 28 November 1995. Such action would indicate
to the international community the willingness of the Government
to bring the relevant provisions of the domestic laws, in
particular the new Constitution to be eventually enacted, into
conformity with international human rights standards.
Mr. President, I have analyzed these allegations and have
made some recommendations strictly in terms of the international
human rights obligations which Myanmar has freely undertaken. I
am particularly thinking of the fact that Myanmar is a Member of
the United Nations and is therefore bound to respect the human
rights standards emanating from the United Nations Charter. I
believe the Government of Myanmar should, and has the ability to,
fulfil in good faith the obligations it has assumed.