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BURMA HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT OCT 95 (5
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
A REPORT ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE LACK OF PROGRESS TOWARDS DEMOCRACY
IN BURMA (MYANMAR) October 1995
CHAPTER FIVE: PROGRESS TOWARDS DEMOCRACY (5.1 - 5.15)
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
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:
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:
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.
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:
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
. 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  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 .' 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,
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 .
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 .
5.8 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
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 .
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 .
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 .
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
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 .
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:
19. THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT CONTINUE TO PRESS THE GOVERNMENT OF BURMA
(A) RECOGNISE THE POPULAR LEGITIMACY OF THE NLD AND BUILDS ON DAW
AUNG SAN SUU KYI'S CALL FOR POWER SHARING ON A SOUTH AFRICAN MODEL;
(B) BEGIN NEGOTIATIONS WITH AUNG SAN SUU KYI WITH A VIEW TO
BRINGING ABOUT THIS END.
 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;
 Notably Aung San, the father of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
 Overseas Burma Liberation Front and the International Commission of
Jurists, joint supplementary submission, p. S668.
 This speech was reproduced in full and is quoted form the Burmese
newspaper The Guardian, Rangoon, Friday 2 September, 1988, p.1.
 Quoted from the magazine Diplomacy, Vol 15 No12, 25 December 1989.
 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
 Overseas Burma Liberation Front and the International Commission of
JUrists supplementary submission, p. S674.
ENDS(5.1 - 5.15)\