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BURMA HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT OCT 95 (4 (r)
Subject: BURMA HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT OCT 95 (4.49-4.77)
/* posted Fri 9 Feb 6:00am 1995 by DRUNOO@xxxxxxxxxxxx(DR U NE OO) in igc:reg.burma */
/* -----------" BURMA HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT, OCT 95 (4.49-4.77) "---------- */
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 FOUR: (4.49 - 4.77)
The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia
Joint Standing Committee of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
A REPORT ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE LACK OF PROGRESS TOWARDS DEMOCRACY
IN BURMA (MYANMAR) October 1995
CHAPTER FOUR: BORDER REGIONS (4.49 - 4.77)
4.49 An estimated 75,000  people have sought refuge along the
Thai-Burma border. With the fall of Manerplaw in January 1995 another
6,000-12,000 people mostly Karen crossed into Thailand. A further 300,000
Burmese are thought to be illegally in Thailand. Of these, approximately
2,300 are students and other dissidents, people designated as 'of concern'
to UNHCR . At any onw time there are thought to be 20,000-40,000 young
girls and women from Burma who have been drawn into prostitution in
Thailand . Over 15,000 people, mostly Kachin are on the Chinese border.
About 6,000, mainly Chin and Naga, have fled into India. In 1992, over
200,000 Rohingyas crossed into Bangladesh; a UNHCR repatriation program has
seen all but 50,000 of these people return to Burma in the last two years.
It is also estimated that there are up to half a million displaced people
inside Burma .
4.50 The number of refugees on the border is a measure of the abuse of the
ethnic minorities in Burma. Despite ceasefire agreements which go back to
1989 the stories persist of gross mistreatment - forced labour, forced
relocation, portering and the use of porters as human mine-sweepers,
beatings, summary killings, torture, rape and political suppression and war
 - as the reason for their departure from Burma.
Student Refugees in Bangkok
4.51 In Thailand there are 2,300 Burmese students. They escaped from Burma
after the democracy uprising of 1988. Most suffered trauma as they fled
from the shootings in Rangoon, were hunted by the military security forces
and travelled by whatever means they could through the jungles of Burma to
the border. This was often a journey of days or months in which they
battled sickness and military pursuit. Many remain on the border,
others have scattered to third countries for asylum. Some remain in
Bangkok. A number of witnesses told the Committee that these people are in
4.52 Although UNHCR has designated these students as persons of concern and
offers them a survival payment, Thailand does not recognise them as
refugees. Thailand is not signatory to the 1951 Convention Relationg to the
Status of Refugees. The students are therefore liable to arrest as illegal
immigrants. In 1991 a number were deported to Burma. Their fate is largely
unknown. Protests about the prospect of deportation led to long periods of
detention in the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) in Bangkok. Many
students have been arrested and have spent time (90 days to a year ) in the
IDC where conditions have been described as very bad - unsanitary,
overcrowded and violent. A student who has since come to Australia
described the situation:
We were not given enough food. ... In place of 10 persons to a
cell, 50 students were put in to sleep together. Some students had
to stand up and some would have to sleep. ...
During my stay in Bangkok, three of my friends were shot dead. One
was shot in the compound of teh Thai police station, one was shot
on the Thai-Burma border, and one killed himself. He committed
suicide due to depression about the difficult situation in Bangkok
4.53 In 1993 the Government of Thailand changed its policy and developed a
'safe camp' for students 70 kilometres from Bangkok. Students lost their
UNHCR allowance unless they went to the safe camp. It is only from this
camp that students can be processed for third country settlement.
4.54 The Committee recommends that:
THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT URGE THE GOVERNMENT OF THAILAND TO
(A) RATIFY THE 1951 CONVENTION RELATIONG TO THE STATUS OF REFUGEES
AND ITS 1967 PROTOCOL; AND
(B) PERMIT THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES TO
PROVIDE GREATER ASSISTANCE TO THE REFUGEES ON THE THAI-BURMA
The Burma-Thailand Border
4.55 There are 23 camps along the Thai-Burma border. They have formed since
the mid-80s and for Thailand their presence also corresponds with the
influx of 400,000 reufgees along the Combodian and Laotian borders. Whereas
the UNHCR and the United Naitons Border Relief Organisation administered
the Cambodian and Laotian refugee camps, on the Thai-Burma border, the
Burma Border Consortium (BBC) was formed to provide emergency relief to the
Burmese refugees. The BBC consists of five non-government organisations
which supply emergency food aid and medical assistance. For the most part
the camps are internally administered.
4.56 Where there is a sudden influx of refugees, the makeshift shelters are
often made of plastic sheeting  making the camps muddy and
uncomfortable. Toilets are of the most basic kind. Food, clothing,
medicines and clean driking water are limited. Often there is overcrowding.
Living conditions in the camps create an environment of psychological
despair and disease. The refugees suffer from depression, anxiety and other
mental illnesses as a result of civil war, displacement, psychological,
physical and sexual mistreatment by the SLORC's Tatmadaw and also instances
of abuse by the Thai border patrol officers and other Thai authorities.
They run a high risk of catching malaria which spreads quickly through the
camps, causing ddeaths or permanent brain or nerve damage . Other major
health problems are tuberculosis and serve diarrohoea, especially among
children in the new refugee camps. Dr Cynthia Maung, a doctor from Mae Sot
in Thailand reported that 'people move from place to place without a
community [and it is therefore] difficult to do any preventative health
care. Antibiotics and clean dressings are all the treatments availabel in
the camps . Substantial aid is needed for limb replacement and other
infuries from landmines. The Committee heard specific evidence about the
impact of landmines.
I went to the Mae Sot hospital at the time of the Kawmoora attack.
... I have seen people with no eyes, no face, no limbs, no legs as
a result of landmines: soldiers and young people my age. That is a
very difficult thing to see. ... For example there is a 17 year old
boy in my village who is the youngest of a number of chilldren,
none of whom are in the area. His mother is old and sick and his
father died a number of years ago. He went across the Moi River
onto the Karen side of the rive to cut bamboo to rebuild the house
for himself and his mother. It was just an innocent activity,
cutting bamboo like most villagers do; but he stood on a landmine
which blew off one of his legs. This is a young boy whose mother
relies on him .
See Recommandation No. 32.
The Spread of HIV/AIDS
4.57 Another major health issue in the camps is the spread of HIV/AIDS. It
is difficult to know exactly what the dimensions of the problem might be.
The United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) estimated that the
percentage of infection of HIV positive case in Burma was:
All tested Drug users 74.3%
Blood donors 0.5%
Pregnant women 1.4% 
Similar percentages were quoted by te SLORC Minister for Health, Colonel Pe
Thein. He put the total number of people who tested positive in 1992 at
5,000. However, an AIDS specialist from the Harvard School of Public
Health, Dr Tarantola, calculated that 300,000 to 400,000 people in Burma
were likely to be infected . The Burma Support Group told the Committee
that there was considerable ignorance inside Burma about the nature of
HIV/AIDS an how it might be avoided or treated. Teh Government brochure on
the subject is sold to the public; it is not free . The more vulnerabel
areas for HIV infection are in the country and in the border camps. Here
the spread of the disease is magnified by the reutrn of infected
prostitutes who have been repatriated by the Thai authorities.
4.58 Australia provides money through the aid program for the control of
HIV/AIDS on the border and inside Burma. It is one of the few humanitirian
programs that operate inside Burma. Funding is supplied through NGOs. The
allocation for 1994-95 is $A200,000. One NGO reported difficulties with
protracted negotiations, the military presence when aid workers were
travelling through the country and complications posed by the exchange rate
problems where the official rate is 6 kyats to the $US and the black market
rate is 120 kyats to the $US. Nevertheless, they believed there was genuine
concern in the Ministry of Health to solve the AIDS crisis and that the
level of theft from the program was minimal. Australia's aid programs to
the area are dealt with more fully in Chapter 6.
4.59 The Committee recommends that:
15. THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT EXPLORE WAYS, WITHIN THE CURRENT
HUMANITARIAN PROGRAM IN BURMA, TO ASSIST IN THE WIDER DISSEMINATION
OF INFORMATION ABOUT HIV/AIDS.
The Committee endorses the recommendation in Chapter 13 of its report on
Australia's Relations with Thailand concerning the role of the World Health
Organisation in this problem.
The Burma-Bangladesh Border
4.60 There are approximately one million Burmese of Indian origin in Burma.
Many were brought inbo burma during the British colonial period to assist
in the administration of the colony. They were resented by the indigenous
population and consequently they have been excluded from full citizenship.
They may not travel freely, are not eligible for promotion in the civil
service or to enrol in advanced university programs in medicine and
technological fields. There are restrictions on land ownership. Asia/Watch
believes that, of all the minority groups in Burma, the Muslims suffer the
worst discrimination. They are disproportionately represented in the
numbers of porters who are interviewed as refugees. Whole villages of
Muslims have been forcibly relocated. Tehy have suffered the destruction of
Mosques and the prohibition on religious services under the order which
forbids the gathering of more than five people . The UN Special
Rapporteur has called for revision of the 1982 Citizenship Law which
currently applies 'second class citizenship in a manner which has a
discriminatory effects on racial or ethnic minorities, particularly Rakhine
4.61 The Committee endorese:
16. THE CALL OF THE UN RAPPORTEUR FOR THE REVISION OF THE 1982
CITIZENSHIP LAW TO ELIMINATE THE CREATION OF SECOND CLASS
CITIZENSHIP, ESPECIALLY FOR THE RAKHINE MUSLIM PEOPLE.
4.62 In 1991-92 over 250,000 refugees fled across the Burma-Bangladesh
border. They were mainly Muslim Rohingya people from Arakan State. At that
time the refugees reported horrendous stories of forced labour, forced
porterage, forced relocation, rape, torture and summary executions. The US
Committee for Refugees reported in 1995 that a doctor who had treated the
refugees in Bangladesh found that 'in the average family of ten, two
members exhibited evidence of recent abuses such as gunshot wounds,
beatings, burns, or physical exhaustion and that on average one woman par
family had been raped '. The level of violence directed against the
Rohingyas appeared to be a reflection of their low status both legally and
socially within Burma.
4.63 Although they were allowed to stay for the short term, Bangladesh had
little to offer the refugees and ocnditions in the camps deteriorated.
Early in 1992 the Government of Bangladesh came to an agreement with the
Goverment of Burma for the return of the refugees. No provision was made
for supervision of the voluntary nature of the repatriation or for
monitoring the resettlement. Protest demonstrations and reports of coercion
- the beating and arrest of refugee leaders - accompanied the first
repatriation process. Fifteen refugees were killed during demonstrations,
100 wounded and 119 arrested . UNHCR was prevented from monitoring the
situation and formally withdrew from the process on 22 December 1992.
Approximately 16,000 people appear to have been deposited across the border
in this period.
4.64 The recent and extensive repatriation process has been supervised by
the UNHCR. On 12 May 1993 they signed a new memorandum of understanding
with the Government of Bangladesh. UNHCR undertook to ascertain whether the
refugees were willing to return to Burma. The MOU stated that UNHCR would
conduct independent interviews and that no refugees would be forced to
leave Bangladesh. Bangladeshi officials moved the refugees from the refugee
camps to transit camps for assessment by UNHCR. Since mid-1993, 190,000
refugees have returned to Burma.
4.65 The UNHCR report on the repatriation said that they informed the
refugees about the conditions inside Burma through group sessions and over
loudspeakers. The refugees were able to opt out of the process at any stage
and final verification interviews with heads of families were conducted in
private. Tehy illustrated the voluntary nature of the process by noting
that 5,000 individuals had so far chosen not to be repatriated. They
provided returnees with kits of food on departure from Bangladesh. On their
arrival in Burma, each person received 2,000 kyats ($US20), 100 kyats for
transport to their village of origin and each family received a grant of
2,000 kyats to help build and repair their homes .
4.66 UNHCR reported that there were 13 international staff in Maungdaw, tow
in Buthidaung and four in Rangoon to monitor the returnees. It claimed that
its representatives had free and full access to the returnees in the
villages. In conjunction with the World Food Program, UNHCR instituted
small scale projects for the returnees to give them employment and reduce
poverty - the improvement of sanitiation, production of food, construction
of roads and enlargement of ponds .
4.67 The Australian Ambassador to Burma, Mr Stuart Hume, reported to the
Committee that he had visited Arakan State and had had discussions with
UNHCR about the repatriation. He noted that the willingness of the SLORC to
allow UNHCR and the two NGOs, the World Food Pragram and the Action
Internationale Contre la Faim, into Arakan State to monitir the
resettlement was fundamental change of policy. He observed thaat the
process appeared to be working successfully.
All the elements that UNHCR wanted to deliver were being delivered.
... I was struck by the fact that at everypoint up until actually
getting on to the truck to cross the border, these refugees had
access to UNHCR personnel and the opportunity to say, 'I don't want
to go.'... It is fairly clear from my discussions with UNHCR they
have had good cooperation with the Myanmar authorities, from the
local area commander and also from those government ministers that
have a role to play in it. [There are] approximately 12
international staff inside Myanmar actually monitiring the
distribution of the material benefits for the program: food,
transport and the reintegration into their villages of origin .
4.68 The Burma Support Group was not so sanguine about the program. They
believed that UNHCR had access to five repatriation centres in Burma but
that they were reliant on SLORC interpreters. Tehy also cited a weaving
cooperative for 50 women which was run by the military and where there had
been reports of rape .
The MSF Report
4.69 Teh repatriation process on the Burma-Bangladesh border is now almost
complete. As at 31 July 1995, 192,541 refugees have been repatriated;
52,551 people remain in the camps. However this second repatriation process
has also been severely criticised. Particular concern has been expressed
about the change of policy in December 1993 to one of mass repatriation,
that the role of UNHCR had changed form facilitating to promoting
repatriation. It is claimed that:
* THE NUMBERS OF TRULY VOLUNTARY RETURNEES ARE MUCH LOWER THAN THE
NUMBERS WHO HAVE BEEN REPATRIATED. In surveys by UNHCR itself in
April 1994 and by Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in May 1995 and in
interviews conducted by Curt Lambrecht for the US Committee for
Refugees between June and August 1994, a consistent percentage of
20-30% per cent said they whshed to return to Burma. MSF has
claimed that UNHCR used somewhat deceitful method of encouraging
teh refugees. Mass registration replaced private interviews.
Refugees were not informed that if they registered with UNHCR it
was tantamount to agreeing to be repatriated. By way of
encouragement UNHCR also advertised that conditions inside Burma
were safe and that their officers would supervise the resettlement.
When the mass registration was introduced the numbers of
'volunteers' allegedly jumped from the April UNHCR figure of 23 per
cent to 95 per cent.
* THE COERCIVE PRACTICES HAVE CONTINUED WITHIN THE CAMPS. It was
reported to Lambrecht that if families told UNHCR that they did not
wish to return they were kept in the transit camps with inadequate
or no shelter, their leaders were arrested on spurious charges or
they were beaten. The Camp Magistrate in Kutu Palong reportedly
broke the arm of one of three refugees during a severe beating with
bamboo canes. Moreover refugees claimed that they understood that
if they did not register they would be denied food rations.
* The conditions within Burma have hot changed substantially.
Despite UNHCR claims that the situation inside Burma has improved
and that the Government of Burma has given guarantees about the
safety of the returnees, human rights organisations still report
abuses in Arakan State thorughout 1994 and 1995. Forced relocations
of Muslims have continued and appear to be directed at moving and
concentrating the Muslim population in towns closer to the
Bangladesh border . Forced labour and large infrastructure
projects are still being undertaken in the region. Asia/Watch
reports that forced labour obligations for returnees have been
negotiated by UNHCR and concession of four days of work from each
family per month has been agreed. However no independent monitoring
of this affangement has been agreed to by the Burmese government
. In July 1995 a fresh spate of atrocities was repoted by
Reuters. Two Rohingyas were reported to have been executed by
firing squad in west Arakan State for refusing to work on a
military project. Reports of torture and travel restrictions
reached the refugees in Cox's Bazar and reduced the repatriation
rate for the month to 27 compared to 16,129 the month bofore.
* UNHCR IS NOT CAPABLE OF PROPERLY SUPERVISING THE RESETTLEMENT.
Questions were raised with the Committee as to whether there were
sufficient UNHCR monitors in Burma to ensure safe resettlement. In
1994 there had been 5, this was raised to 10 and at the beginning
of 1995 to 25.
4.70 The Committee recommends that:
17. AUSTRALIAN DIPLOMATIC REPRESENTATIVES AND OFFICERS FROM AUSAID MAKE
A SPECIFIC EVALUATION OF THE REPATRIATION AND RESETTLEMENT OF THE
ROHINGYA REFUGEES BY REGULAR VISITS TO THE ARAKAN STATE AND THE
UNHCR PROJECTS ESTABLISHED TO ENSURE THEIR SUCCESSFUL RESETTLEMENT.
The Fall of Manerplaw
4.71 If the ceasefires have made a significant difference in the strategic
relations to Burma's north, the fall of manerplaw in January and the attack
on Kawmoora have also had a profound effect on the balance of power in the
east. The Karen National Union was weakened by internal divisions between
the Buddhist and Christian factions in December 1994  a division which
the SLORC was able to both to promote and exploit. Complaints with some
apparent validity by the Buddhist rank and file that the Christian leaders
had given themselves privileges combined with anti-Christian propaganda
fomented by the SLORC to bring about the split. Teh formation of the
Democratic Karen Buddhist Organization (DKBO) and the Democratic Karen
Buddhist Army (DKBA) armed and backed by the SLORC army proved to be
overwhelming. Teh result has been to add 10,000 refugees to the camps on
the Thai border. The motivation has variously been seen as the desire to
defeat the main minority opposition to the regime but also to secure and
open the area to development possibilities. Teh longer term effects may
well be pressure on the democracy movement which had found support and
shelter in the Karen camps.
4.72 Despite htese seeming military victories, the hoped-for advantages to
trade and development will not be realised unless there are political
settlements with the minorities. At the last meeting of the National
Convention in April 1995, the SLORC announced, wihtout prior consultation
with the groups concerned, the creation of Self Administrative Zones for
ethnic minority groups, specifically for the Naga, the Da-nu, the Pa-o, the
Pa-laung, the Kokang and the Wa. Paradoxically, according to submissions to
the Committee, this move did not receive unanimous support from the
minorities and the proceedings of the Convention were suspended until
October. The minorities in question have moved to form a colaition, the
Peace and Democracy Front, which is demanding the release of political
prisoners and a genuine National Convention and they have agreed to mutual
support in the event of an attack by the SLORC on one of their members
4.73 The Committee would argue that, despite the apparent success of the
military offensives and the ceasefires, none have produced genuine
political settlements and that, unless this is done through thorough
consultation with all the minorities, the peace will be short lived.
4.74 This Committee reiterates the view it put in its last report on 'A
Review of Australia's Efforts to Promote and Protect Human Rights', on the
problems that arise for states because of the demands by minority groups
for self-determination and independence. The Committee believes this issue
alone represents one of the major security issues facing the world today.
It is particularly pertinent to the countries of the region where there are
numerous examples of pressure being applied to central governments for
self-determination. In 1994, the Committee argued:
that governments cannot maintain national cohesion by force and the
continual oppression of minorities. It supports the proposition
that effective and successful multi-racial/multi-ethnic states need
to express their diversity in institutions and political structures
which genuinely accommodate the aspirations of thier minorities.
Failure to make that accommodation, and worse, the abuse and
oppression of minorities, gives moral force to claims for
independence and secession .
4.75 The Committee recommends that:
18. IN RESPONDING TO DEMANDS FOR SELF DETERMINATION IN BURMA, THE
AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT AND ITS ASEAN DIALOGUE PARTNERS INCLUDE ON
THEIR AGENDA FOR DISCUSSIONS BETWEEN FOREIGN MINISTERS AND BETWEEN
HEADS OF GOVERNMENT THE IMPORTANCE OF PROTECTING MINORITY RIGHTS AS
THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY OF ENSURING THE STABILITY OF THE STATE.
4.76 The problems associated with the border regions of Burma are complex
and longstanding. However they clearly illustrate the interconnectedness of
human rights, political democracy, peace, security and development. The
current Burmese regime is a source of instability in the region. Its lack
of accountability and legitimacy allows for corruption and oppression;
there is no forum, independent of the government, to bring to account,
consistently and impartially, those who, through normal humanvenality,
abuse and oppress their fellow citizens. There is no place for the
aspirations of minority groups who have a well fouded suspicion of the
power of the majority to find expression. Corruption and violence appear to
be endemic and, so long as they exist, they encourage the evils of
trafficking in arms, drugs and people and the outflows of refugees. Burma's
problems then spill over into neighbouring countries and spread from there
to the wider world.
4.77 Therefore, it is in the interest of our region and Australia that
there should be a solution to the problems Burma faces. Despite the
ceasefires and the acclaimed success of the military operations, the
situation on the borders continues ot be fragile and precarious. For there
to be a secure peace there must be a political solution to the demands of
the border peoples. This will necessitate proper, not token and selected,
representation at the National Convention. Without proper representation at
this Convention there can be no lasting accommodation in the new
constitution of minority rights and little likelihood that such a
constitution will find long term acceptance, thereby providing the basis
for stability in the country.
 Mostly Karen-55,000 and Mon-10,000. The numbers are fluid as more
refugees stream across the border when military activity increases or the
pressure on the villages to supply forced labour or porter increases.
 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade submission, p. S496.
 In-camera evidence, 5 May 1995, p.37.
 Australia-Burma Council submission, p. S291.
 See Chapters 2 and 5 of this report and the volumes of submissions and
evidence for details of these complaints.
 Submission to the JSCFADT inquiry into Australia's relations with
 In-camera evidence, 5 May 1995, p.55.
 Tribal Refugee Welfare in South East Asia submission, p. S1
 AUSTCARE, 'The New World Order: Redefining Refugees', 17 June 1992,
 Far Eastern Economic Review, 24 November 1994, p. 150.
 Evidence, 19 May 1995, pp. 165-66.
 Far Eastern Economic Review, 21 July 1994, p.26.
 Burma Support Group submission, p. S231.
 Evidence, 19 May 1995, pp. 173-74.
 Exhibit No 44, Human Rights Watch/Asia,' Burma: Entrenchment or Reform
? July 1995, p.17.'
 Economic and Social Council, 'Report on the situation of human rights
in Myanmar, prepared by Mr Yozo Yokota, Special Rapporteur, in accordance
with Commission resolution 1993/73, E/CN.4/1994/57, 16 February 1994,
 Exhibit No 43, Lambrecht, Curt, 'The Return of the Rohingya Refugees
to Burma: Voluntary Repatriation or Refoulment ?' The US Committee for
Refugees, March 1995, p. 4.
 ibid., p.5.
 Exhibit No 43., UNHCR Information Bulletin, 'Return to Myanmar:
Repatriating refugees from Bangladesh,' June 1995.
 Evidence 12 May 1995, pp.135-6.
 Evidence, 19 May 1995, p. 190.
 Details of these cases are given in Chapter 1.
 Exhibit No 44. Asia Watch op.cit. p.18
 Dr U Ne Oo submission, p. S664.
 Overseas Burma Liberation Front and International Commission of
Jurists submission., pp. S708-09.
 Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, 'A
Review of Australia's Efforts to Promote and Protect Human Rights, p.211.'