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Subject: BURMA HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT OCT 95 (5.1-5.15)

/* posted Tue 13 Feb 6:00am 1995 by DRUNOO@xxxxxxxxxxxx(DR U NE OO) in igc:reg.burma */
/* -----------" BURMA HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT, OCT 95 (5.1 -5.15) "---------- */
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 FIVE: (5.1 - 5.15)
The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia
Joint Standing Committee of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade

IN BURMA (MYANMAR)     October 1995

Democratic Principles

5.1  There  can be no democracy, Western or Asian, without certain baseline
features.  These  include  a  freely  organised  opposition,  a  free   and
independent press, an independent judiciary and free and regular elections.
The  right  to  oppose  a  government's  policies, to criticise and to seek
support among the electorate for alternative programs is essential  to  any
democratic system.

5.2  These  principles  are  outlined in the Universal Declaration on Human
Rights  to  which  the  SLORC  repeatedly  reaffirms  its  commitment.   In
particular, the following articles are worth noting here:

        Article 21
        Everyone  has  the  right  to  take  part  in the government of his
        country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

        Everyone has the right to equal access to  public  service  in  his

        The  will  of  the  people  shall  be the basis of the authority of
        government;  this  shall  be  expressed  in  periodic  and  genuine
        elections  which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall
        be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Also relevant is:

        Article 19
        Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and  expression;  this
        right includes freedom to hole opinions without interference and to
        seek,  receive  and  impart information and ideas through any media
        and regardless of frontiers.


        Article 20
        1. Everyone has the right  to  freedom  of  peaceful  assembly  and
        2. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

and,  given the particular circumstances of elected members of the National
League for Democracy (NLD) after the 1990 elections:

        Article 11
        1. Everyone charged with a  penal  offence  has  the  right  to  be
        presumed  innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public
        trial at which he has all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

        2. No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on  account  of
        any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under
        national  or  international law, at the time when it was committed.
        Nor shall a heavier penalty  be  imposed  than  the  one  that  was
        applicable at the adopted time the penal offence was committed.

5.3 These principles have been reinforced by the international community in
the  resolutions  it has passed on Burma in the General Assembly and in the
Commission on Human Rights. They ahve been adopted every  year  since  1991
[1]. In both places they have been by consensus, without needing to go to a
vote.  They  have  become increasingly concerned about the continuing grave
violations of human rights and failure of the Government to hand over power
in accordance with the will of the people as expressed in the elections  of
1990. (See Appendix 7)

The Historical Context

5.4  At a conference at Panlong in 1947, the leaders of the Burmese [2] and
the ethnic minorities came to an agreement on  a  form  of  government  for
Burma  post  independence. They agreed to form a union in which 'the ethnic
states  would  acquire  equal   status   based   on   the   principles   of
self-determination, political authnomy and social equality with the Burmese
mahority. .... The Panlong Agreement formed the basis of a unified, federal
Burmese state [3].' However, the plan for a federated state did not survive
the  assassination of Aung San in July 1947 and ongoing dissension over the
status of the ethnic minorities within the union underlies  the  ocntinuous
insurgencies on the border since that time.

5.5 After a brief expreience of democracy between 1948 and 1962, General Ne
Win  seized  power  and Burma was ruled by a military, socialist regime. It
repressed the rights and liberties of the people and destoryed the  economy
leading to the pro-democracy movement in 1988 which demanded constitutional
change and economic reform. Large scale protests were held daily, involving
students  from  both  schools  and  the university, civil servants marching
under banners announcing their department, monks and ordinary workers.  The
Bar  Council  and  ex-military  officers  declared their solidarity through
announcements in the newspaper, The Guardian. The movement was not confined
to Rangoon but spread to most towns of  Burma.  There  were  riots  in  the
prisons.  The  demands of the protesters were for the end of one party rule
and the formation of an interim government with a view to drawing up a new,
democratic constitution.

5.6 The Party Chairman and the Council of State Chairman, Dr  Maung  Maung,
addressed  the nation on 2 September 1988. He announced that he was calling
together an Extraordinary Party Congress on 12 September to be followed  by
an  emergency session of the Pyithu Hluttaw (Parliament) on 13 September to
decide on the holding a national referendum as to whether the single  party
system  was  to  be continued or whether to change to a multi-party system.
The referendum was to be held within one month. Dr Maung Maung went  on  to

        If  the  answer  received  is  a  choice  for a multi-party system,
        general elections will be held as quickly as possible  and  in  the
        most   just  manner  and  under  the  supervision  of  a  free  and
        independent elections commission. The party which is the  strongest
        at  the  Hluttaw will form a government. We will then hand over the
        matters to that governemnt. This I promised in my address  made  on
        24 August. This promise was not given by me alone; this promise was
        made  by  me  and  all my colleagues in full consensus and with the
        most genuine cetana [4].

5.7 Dr Maung Maung was replaced by Saw Maung  in  a  military  coup  on  18
September  1988 which saw the formation of the SLORC. However, despite this
change the plans for the general election continued. On 17  November  1989,
at  the  65th Press Conference of the INformation Committee, SLORC Ministry
of Defence, General Saw Maung stated that:

        After the election is held, according to the  law,  power  will  be
        duly  handed  over  and the Tatmadaw will steadfastly carry out its
        ordinary duties [5].

5.8 The view, expressed by the Burmese Ambassador  in  his  letter  to  the
Australian  Senate  on 24 February 1994, that 'the authorities of the Union
of Myanmar have stated time and  time  again  that  the  objective  of  the
election  was  the drafting of a new constitution ... not for the formation
of  a  government  by  the  elected  representatives'  appears  to   be   a
reinterpretation of history.

5.9  The  protests  and demonstrations of 1988 were suppressed violently by
the military causing the deaths of thousands of  people.  It  is  variously
estimated  that  the  death  toll  was  between  3,000  and  10,000 people.
Thousands were  arrested.  An  estimated  700,000  fled  the  country.  The
generals declared a state of emergency and on 18 September 1988 established
the  State  Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). They ahd promised to
hold general elections and a number of political parties emerged to contest
them, including the National League for Democracy (NLD), the National Unity
Party (NUP) and  the  League  for  Democracy  (LDP).  However,  before  the
elections took place most of the significant democratic, political leaders,
including Aung San Suu Kyi, the General-Secretary of the NLD, were detained
or imprisoned.

5.10   Despite   such   handicaps,   the   National  League  for  Democracy
overwhelmingly won the election of May 1990, an election that was  declared
by  observers, including the SLORC, to be free and fair. The NLD won 392 of
the 485 seats, securing 80 per cent of the vote. The  Pyithu  Hluttaw  (the
parliament) was never convened. Subsequently the election was redefined; it
was,  the  SLORC  claimed, not an election for a government but an election
for a constitutional assembly.  However, even  the  promise  that  the  new
constitution  would  be  drafted by the representatives elected in May 1990
was not kept. Eighty-three elected members were imprisoned or detained  and
consequently  banned  from  standing for reelection. Eleven have since died
(one in custody).

5.11 The SLORC has met criticism of its illegality and arbitrary  means  of
operation  wit  the  claim  that  this is necessary to save the nation from
disintegration, the threat of communism and anarchy.

5.12 Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has considered these arguments in recent writings
on the prospects for peace and development in Burma. She said:

        Many authoritarian governments wish to appear in the  forefront  of
        modern progress but are relictant to institute genuine change. Such
        governments  tend to claim that they are taking a uniquely national
        or indigenous path towards a political system in keeping  with  the
        times.  ....  It is often in the name of cultural integrity as well
        as social stability and national security that  democratic  reforms
        based   on   human   rights   are  resisted  by  the  authoritarian
        governments. ... It is claimed, usually without adequate  evidence,
        that democratic values and human rights run counter to the national
        culture,  and therefore to be beneficial they need to be modified -
        perhaps to the extent that they are barely recognizable [6].

5.13 Aung San Suu Kyi rejected these arguments  as  the  arguments  of  the
empowered  few  who  wish  to  retain  power for themselves and who have no
confidence in their capacity to complete successfully for  the  support  of
the people in a democratic process. She argued that:

        A  nation  may  choose  a  system that leaves the protection of the
        freedom and security of the many dependent on the few;  or  it  may
        choose  institutions  and  practices that will sufficiently empower
        individuals and organisations to  protect  their  own  freedom  and

She believed that

        where  power is concentrated in the hands of the few, the threat to
        peace and stability is ever present even if unpreceived [7].

Finally, she argued that:

        The democratic process provides for  political  and  social  change
        without  violence.  The democratic tradition of free discussion and
        debate allows for the settlement of differences without  resort  to
        armed  conflict. The culture of democracy and human rights promotes
        diversity and dynamism without disintegration [8].

5.14 The experience of Burma has validated this view. Without any  mandate,
the  SLORC has proceeded to govern by the proclamation of laws. Declaration
1/90 states:

        The State Law and Order Restoration Council (Tatmadaw)  is  not  an
        organisation  that observes any Constitution; it is an organisation
        that is governing the nation  by  Martial  Law  ...  It  is  common
        knowledge  that  the  State  Law  and  Order Restoration Council is
        governing the nation as  a  military  government  and  that  it  is
        agovernment  that  has  been accepted as such by the United Nations
        and the respective nations of the world [9].

Through this proclamation and a series of others it has  sought  to  assert
its  legitimacy.  However,  a  number  of  international  institutions,  in
particular the United Nations through its resolutions and the International
Parliamentary Union  (IPU)  through  its  committes  and  resolution,  have
condemned  the  failure  of the SLORC to hand power to the properly elected
representatives. Therefoer the claim that it is agovernment accepted by the
UN and the respective nations of the world is questionable.

5.15 The Committee recommends that:




[1] General Assembly resolutions 46/132, 1991; 47/144, 1992; 48/150,  1993;
49/197,  1994  and Commission on Human Rights resolutions 1992/58; 1993/73;

[2] Notably Aung San, the father of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

[3] Overseas Burma Liberation Front and  the  International  Commission  of
Jurists, joint supplementary submission, p. S668.

[4]  This  speech  was  reproduced  in  full and is quoted form the Burmese
newspaper The Guardian, Rangoon, Friday 2 September, 1988, p.1.

[5] Quoted from the magazine Diplomacy, Vol 15 No12, 25 December 1989.

[6] Daw Aung  San  Suu  Kyi,  'Empowerment  for  a  Culture  of  Peace  and
Development',  an  address  to a meeting of the World commission on Culture
and Development, Manila, 21 November 1994, presented on her behalf  by  Mrs
Corazon Aquino.

[7] ibid.

[8] ibid.

[9]  Overseas  Burma  Liberation  Front and the International Commission of
JUrists supplementary submission, p. S674.

ENDS(5.1 - 5.15)\