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Subject: BURMA HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT OCT 95 (2.15-2.22)

/* posted Sun Jan 28 6:00am 1995 by DRUNOO@xxxxxxxxxxxx(DR U NE OO) in igc:reg.burma */
/* -----------" BURMA HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT, OCT 95 (2.15-2.22) "---------- */
Following materials are reproduction from the findings of Human Rights
Sub-Committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affair, Defence
and Trade of the Parliament of Australia, published in October 1995.
Anyone wishing to inquire about the document may contact Ms Margaret
Swieringa, Secretary, Human Rights Sub-Committee, Parliament House,
Canberra A.C.T. 2600, AUSTRALIA.
Best regards, U Ne Oo.
CHAPTER TWO: (2.15 - 2.22)
The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia
Joint Standing Committee of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade

IN BURMA (MYANMAR)     October 1995

Human Rights in Burma
The  View  of  the  State  Law  and  Order Restoration Council (SLORC) - An
Improving Situation

2.15 The Burmese Government did not formally address the Committee  on  the
question  of  human rights in Burma. Nevertheless, the Burmese government's
assessment of its  own  record  is  presented  in  the  Foreign  Minister's
addresses  to  the  General  Assembly  and  the Royal Thai National Defence
College in 1994.

2.16 These speeches stressed a number of things:

        * the State Law and Order Restoration Council intends to  establish
        a multi-party democracy in the country;

        *  the democracy would be in accordance with the wishes and desires
        of the 45 million people of Myanmar;

        * as a  consequence  of  the  struggle  for  independence  and  the
        sacrifices  of  the  peoples in that struggle, there was implacable
        opposition to the dominance of fireigners in  any  interference  in
        the internal affairs of the country; and

        *  there  is  a need for unity in a country torn by internal strife
        and the existence of one hundred national races [9].

2.17 U Ohn Gyaw listed the achievements of his Government as:

        * the suspension of military offensives since April 1992 - a  total
        of 12 groups have returned to the legal fold;\

        *  the  establishment  of  a  National  Convention to develop a new
        constitution and foster national reconciliation. Consensus has been
        achieved, he said, on the 15 Chapter headings, the 104  fundamental
        principles  of  teh  state and the Chapters on the Structure of the
        State and the Head of State. The process has  been  slowed  by  the
        need  to  achieve consensus from the 700 delegates.[10] (There will
        be more extensive discussion of the National Convention in  Chapter

        * a priority for the development of the border areas with a view to
        narrowing  the  gap between rural and urban areas - improvements in
        infrastructure, roads, bridges, hospitals and ommunication systems.
        A master plan for border areas up to the year  2004  details  means
        for  the  alleviation  of  poverty through the eradication of poppy
        cultivation  and  the   establishment   of   alternative   economic
        enterprises,  the  preservation  of culture, literature and customs
        forthe national races and the preservation of security and law  and
        order  in  the  border areas. (There is a further discussion of the
        border areas below in chapter 4);

        * international cooperation with China, Laos and Thailand under the
        auspices of the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) and  in
        compliance  with the 1988 UN Convention against Traffic in Narcotic
        Drugs for the reduction of drug trafficking and production;

        * the introduction of a market economy; and

        * an increase in foreign investment through the promulgation of the
        Foreign Investment Law. Considerable detail on the sectors and  the
        amounts  of  investment  were  given  by  the Foreign Minister[11].
        (These will be addressed in Chapter 6).

2.18 On human rights, specifically civil and political rights, U  Ohn  Gyaw
asserted that

        the  Myanmar Government does not condone human rights abuses. It is
        totally  against  human  rights  abuses.   [The   Government]   has
        cooperated   fully  wit  the  United  Nations  and  has  faithfully
        responded to all its inquiries regarding human rights questions. We
        have permitted US congressmen and congressional aides as well as UN
        personnel to visit Insein goal and interview some of  the  inmates.
        We  have  taken  diplomats, visiting dignitaries and journalists to
        the areas of  alleged  human  rights  abuses.  There  has  been  no
        executions  at  all  in  prisons although there were many instances
        where people have been sentenced to death for their  crimes.  On  9
        January s1993 all death sentences were changed to life imprisonment
        while  other  jail  sentences  were reduced. .... The tatmadaw (the
        Burmese  Army)  is  conducting  classes  in  conjunction  with  the
        INternational  Committee  of  the  Red  Cross  (ICRC) regarding the
        various principles contained  in  the  [Geneva]  Convention.  .....
        Torture,  ill-treatment  of prisoners and degrading punishments are
        strictly prohibited.[12]

2.19 Two witnesses to the inquiry also  saw  developments  in  Burma  in  a
positive  light.  The  Hon  RLJ Hawke in outlining his impressions of Burma
after his visit to the country in January 1995 stated:

        We had been uniformly impressed by the  competence,  knowledge  and
        commitment  of these ministers and their associates to the economic
        development of Myanmar as a basis for the  national  and  political
        advancement  of  the  people  and  their  country.  This  view  was
        confirmed in our meeting with General Khin Nyunt, who  specifically
        expressed  a  commitment  to  the  emergence  of  a more democratic
        siciety - not necessarily according to western parliamentary  forms
        - in the future.

        IN  dealing with the government of Myanmar, we believe that you are
        not dealing with  the  incompetence  and  self-aggrandisement  that
        characterises so many military regimes in other parts of the world.
        It  has  done  things  which  cannot  be  approved, but rather than
        one-sided, blanket condemnation made by its critics, the givernment
        is entitled to be  given  credit  for  its  genuine  commitment  to
        improving  the  economic  condition  of  the country and its people
        generally. Contact with it is justified and desirable [13].

2.20 In his opening statement in evidence before the  Committee,  Mr  Hawke
quoted  extensively  from  a briefing paper on Burma supplied to him by the
Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and  Trade  in  January  1995.  He
concentrated  on  the  positive  developments  outlined in the paper as, he
daid, they had influenced his decision to take up the invitation  to  visit
Burma. He noted:

        *  the  dialogue that had begun in 1994 between senior State Law an
        Order Restoration Council (SLORC) figures and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,

        * the release of 2,000 detainees,

        * the lifting of the curfew,

        * the replacement of military courtes with civilian ones,

        *the visit to some prominent political prisoners  by  international

        * the existence of the National Convention,

        *  the  removal  of reservations on the Convention on the Rights of
        the Child,

        * the invitation to the INternational Committee of  the  Red  Cross
        (ICRC) to train soldiers in international humanitarian law,

        *  the  agreement  for  UNited Nations High Commission for Refugees
        (UNHCR) monitoring of the repatriation  and  reintegration  of  the
        Rohingya refugees from the Bangladesh border,

        * the achievement of ceasefires with a number of border groups, and

        * some limited economic reform [14].

2.21  Mr  MIchael Nyunt also characterised Burma as a place where 'real and
substantial changes had taken place, particularly since 1993'[15]. On human
rights he believed there had  'never  really  been  a  problem'  in  Burma.
'Dangerous'  political  prisoners  had  been  held  without  trial  but not
executed. His former law partner, U Ye Htoon, sentenced to 12 and 18  years
and  placed  in  solitary  confinement,  had  not been physically tortured.
'Human Rights did not seriously concern the average Myanmar  citizen'.   Mr
Nyunt  claimed  there is no, and never was any, religious discrimination in
Myanmar. There is no forced  labour  for  peaceful  projects.  He  waw  the
leadership  as  'clean,  efficient, hardworking, educated and caring',[16].
Aung San Suu Kyi was sincere but surrounded by  sycophants.  She  had  poor
interperson  skills  and yet her personality cult was likely to destabilise
the fledgling democracy. Sh had no interest in the  ethnic  minorities  and
the  National  Coalition  Government  of  the  Union  of  Burma(NCGUB) is a
forgotten group within Myanmar [17].

2.22 Finally, Mr Nyunt put the proposition  that  Burma  could  not  afford
Western  style  democracy  or  Australian  style unionism. It was intent on
development and attracting investment and tourists.

[9] MIchael Nyunt submission, pp. S29-30.
[10]  Oddly, he believed that, 'After the National Convention has completed
its task and the constitution promulgated, a constitutional government will
materialise to lead the country.'
[11] ibid., pp. S29-40.
[12] ibid., pp. S42-43. NB The ICRC left Burma in 1995  in  frustration  at
the lack of proper private access to prisoners.
[13] Evidence, 24 February 1995, pp. 48-49.
[14] Evidence, 24 February 1995, pp. 45-46.
[15] Mr MIchael Nyunt submission, p. S21.
[16] ibid., p. S23.
[17] ibid., p. S22-24.