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/* posted Sat 12 Oct 6:00am 1996 by DRUNOO@xxxxxxxxxxxx in igc:soc.culture.burma */
/* ---------------" UNCHR Report, 5 February 1996 (4/5)"---------------- */
[ U.N. Commission on Human Rights report on 1996 is posted here for your
reference. The Official records of U.N. documents may be found in your
public library. -- U Ne Oo.]
B. Arbitrary arrest and detention
Prison conditions and the treatment of prisoners

106. this year, unlike his last visits, despite his repeated requests, the
Special Rapporteur was not permitted to see any prisoner either in Insein
Prison or in Myitkyina Jail. The Special Rapporteur was also denied access
to the cells of both prisons. Similarly, the Government of Myanmar rejected
the ICRC standard requirements for visits to places of detention(i.e., that
it meet prisoners in private, have access to all prisons and be assured of
repeated visits). The non-acceptance of the customary ICRC procedures for
visits to places of detention and the non-acceptance of the Special
Rapporteur's request to meet with some detainees while in Insein Prison and
Myitkyina Jail would indicate that the Myanmar authorities are unwilling to
open their jails to public scrutiny.

107. Given the lack of access to Myanmar prisons, the Special Rapporteur
could only rely on reports from former detainees which indicate that
conditions in the prisons fall far below minimum international standards
established by the United Nations. Prisoners are said to be denied adequate
food (in amount and quality) and health care, to be housed in unsanitary
and degrading conditions and subjected to cruel disciplinary practices or

108. Numerous allegations, often in considerable detain, have been received
from various sources alleging that members of the Myanmar military,
intelligence and security services and police continue to torture persons
in detention or otherwise subject them to cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment and punishment. Such treatment seems to be routinely employed
during the interrogation of persons who have been arbitrarily arrested.
many former political detainees testified to having been put into leg irons
and beaten with canes, sometimes to the point of unconsciousness.

109. According to information received, Saw naing Naing, Monywa Tin Shwe, U
Win Tin, Myo Myint Nyein and Dr. Myint Aung, all members of the NLD, have
been subjected to severe ill-treatment since mid-November 1995 at Insein
Prison, where they are at present being held. During this period, the
prisoners were said to have been interrogated in respect to letters
addressed to the Special Rapporteur which had reportedly been smuggled out
of the prison and which contained allegations of ill-treatment and poor
conditions. U Win Tin is said to suffer from Spondylitis (an inflammation
of the vertebrate). According to the information received, prison officials
forced the five prisoners to sleep on concrete floors without mats or
blankets in "military dog cells", which are small cells where military dots
are normally kept. The five have also been denied access to their families.
On the basis of the information received, the Special Rapporteur, in a
letter addressed on 15 January 1995 to the Government of Myanmar, expressed
his fears and preoccupation over these allegations. He pointed out that the
impartial and free assessment of the situation of human rights in Myanmar
requires him to have access to any letters, documents or materials of any
kind and no person should subjected to punishment or maltreatment because
of their collaboration with him. He added that such a practice would
clearly be in contravention of Commission on Human Rights resolution
1995/75 which urges Governments to refrain from all acts of intimidation or
reprisal to those who have provided testimony or information to
representatives of UNited Nations human rights bodies.

110. The Special Rapporteur received testimony from reliable sources
indicating that detainees are very often forced to sleep on cold cement,
and that many of them suffer from sickness and serious diseases. The same
reliable testimony indicates that cells are often overcrowded and that
prisoners are provided with inadequate hygiene or medical care. A former
woman inmate reported to the Special Rapporteur that during her stay in
Insein Prison between 1989 and 1992, around 170 to a maximum of 250 women
were held in a two floor dormitory measuring 60 by 40 feet. During that
period, she said, at least 30 children and new-born infants were living
with their mothers in the prison. The mortality rate among the new-born
children in the prison was very high and this was due mainly to the
inadequate food provided to them.

111. Bribery and corruption were said to be a major problem in Myanmar
prisons. Although families can bring food and medicines to their relatives,
such supplies are reportedly sometimes confiscated by the prison
authorities. It was said that about one eighth of the items brought to
prisoners are confiscated.

112. The Special Rapporteur was told by the Myanmar authorities that
prisoners convicted of criminal offences could participate in voluntary
labour at project sites and, by participating in such projects, could have
their sentences reduced. Despite the Government's explanation, the Special
Rapporteur remains concerned at current reports of hundreds of prisoners
who have been forced to work under extremely harsh conditions on
infrastructure projects without being released at the completion of their
duties. Several detainees from prisons throughout Myanmar have been
reportedly forced, together with the people of Mong Mai, to build a railway
section from Mong Nai to Nam Zarng, with the commitment that they be
released after the completion of such section. Now, the same prisoners are
reportedly being forced to continue working on different sections, from
Mong Nai to Mawkmai and from Ho nam Sai Khao to Shwe Myont. One prisoner
reported that there of his companions had died during the construction.
Apparently, prisoners can avoid going to such camps if they pay large
bribes to the prison authorities.

113. The Special Rapporteur was also informed by persons related from
prison that during their detention they were not allowed to have any
reading material, including the State-run newspaper, or material with which
to write, or non-political literature; they were reportedly also denied
access to radios.

C. Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment

114. Allegations concerning the practice of torture and other cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment have previously been addressed
by the Special Rapporteur in his reports to the Commission and the General
Assembly (A/47/651, paras. 46-52; E/CN.4/1993/37, paras. 97-114; A/48/587,
paras. 9-11; E/CN.4/1994/57, paras.48-50; A/49/594, paras. 13-15;
E/CN.4/1995/65 paras. 114-117; A/50/568, paras. 20-23). On the basis of the
information received throughout the past year it appears that the practice
of torture remains widespread. Reports of torture and inhuman treatment in
the past year include severe beatings, shackling, near suffocation,
burning, stabbing, rubbing of salt and chemicals into open wounds and
psychological torture, including threats of death. Other reported methods
of torture include sexual assaults and rape, mostly among women serving as
porters. In some cases, victims alleged that they had suffered burns and
the cutting off of parts of their bodies (for example, ears and tongue).

115. According to reports received, torture and ill-treatment would seem to
be a common method to extract confessions from civilians suspected of real
or perceived anti-government activities. It also seems to be a means for
the Myanmar authorities to punish citizens who do not comply with their
orders. The most vulnerable populations are porters in the course of their
duties, and civilians living in areas of active insurgency. It has also
been reported that some victims of torture have to pay bribes to avoid such

116. In addition to receiving several reports alleging widespread torture
and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in Myanmar, the Special
Rapporteur has interviewed persons claiming to be victims or to have
witnessed such human rights violations. Several persons gave testimony,
corroborated by their own scars and disabilities, about torture which they
suffered during the time they were serving as porters for the Army.

117. With respect to some specific cases, the Special Rapporteur draws
attention to his latest report to the General Assembly at its fiftieth
session (A/50/568) and to the report of the Special Rapporteur on torture
to the Commission on HUman Rights at its present session (E/CN.4/1996/35,
paras.113-114; E/CN.4/1996/35/Add.1, paras. 458-475). In this connection,
the Special Rapporteur is aware that the Government of Myanmar has
responded to some of the allegations transmitted by the Special Rapporteur
on torture.

D. Freedom of expression and association

118. The freedoms of expression and association are guaranteed respectively
by articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These
rights include the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to
seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and
regardless of frontiers, and the freedoms of peaceful assembly and
association. The Special Rapporteur has previously reported on the
interference of Myanmar law and SLORC orders with the freedoms of expression
and association (E/CN.4/1993/37, para. 186). In Myanmar, it would appear
that SLORC does not permit any freedom of expression or association that
significantly conflicts with or opposes SLORC, the regional Law and Order
Restorations Councils (LORC) at different levels , or the Government.

Freedom of expression

119. the Special Rapporteur was informed that there has been increased
access for foreign journalists in Myanmar. their movement and access to
contacts were reportedly less restricted or monitored than in previous
years. Foreign newspapers were also available in some bookstores in Yangon,
and more than 80 Myanmar magazines, of social and cultural interest, are
available to the public. To a large extent, these developments are a
reflection of the increasing scale of international business and domestic
commercialization resulting from open door policy of SLORC.

120. IN 1995, during his visit to Myanmar, the Special Rapporteur noticed
that, within the country, the written press, radio and television continue
to be subject to governmental censorship and that the distribution of
written material was also subject to governmental restrictions and control.
All magazines must be read by a governmental body, the "Press Scrutiny
Board", before their distribution.

121. The Myanmar media are largely used as an instrument to propagate and
promulgate what SLORC has defined as the political, economic and social
objectives of the Union of MYanmar. The Special Rapporteur received
information from several reliable sources which demonstrates the extent of
governmental supervision over and application of restrictions on freedom of
expression. For example, it is reported that since the beginning of 1995,
Myanmar's most popular public speaker, U Aung Thin, has been completely
barred from giving public lecture in any part of the country. Whenever his
name comes up before SLORC officials for approval to speak, permission for
the rallies is immediately refused or withdrawn. Another example brought to
his attention concerns the failed attempt of the popular literary journal,
"Sa-pay Gya-neh," to decide its June 1995 issue was reportedly blocked at
the very last moment by an order from the Deputy Minister of Home and
Religious Affairs, although the cover of the publication carrying Min Thu
Wun's portrait had already been passed by the censors.

122. While a multiethnic society such as Myanmar might reasonably be
expected to have its diversity reflected in the media, the special
Rapporteur notes that, to his knowledge, there are no newspapers in any
minority language. It is also reported that writing and publishing books in
minority language is a very difficult task which requires a very long
procedure. All books and printed material have to pass before a censorship
board, but minority-language texts have to pass the additional obstacle of
translation into Burmese before they can be reviewed.

123. Apart from censorship, the Government of Myanmar continues to
intimidate its citizens and discourages them from exercising their
fundamental right to freedom of expression by prosecuting persons through
the use of criminal and treason-related charges. The Special Rapporteur
mentioned in his previous report to the Commission on HUman Rights
(E/CN.4/1995/65) that one of the charges against Khin Zaw Win, Daw San Nwe
and U Khin Maung Swe, who were arrested in July 1994, was that of "writing
and distributing false news that could jeopardize the security of the
State". The Special Rapporteur notes that other citizens are still being
arrested for peaceful expression of their ideas. As mentioned above (see
para. 96), three political party leaders were sentenced on 3 July 1995 to
seven years' imprisonment "for collecting and distributing anti-government
seditious pamphlets". More recently, a student, U Ye Htut, was sentenced on
14 NOvember 1995 to seven years' imprisonment for "writing false and
fabricated news about Myanmar since 1992, which could cause foreign
countries to misunderstand the actual situation prevailing in the country".

124. It is evident that the total State domination of the media, together
with the existence of a wide range of SLORC orders limiting the freedom of
expression, seriously undermines the possiblilty of the citizens freely
expressing their opinions.

Freedom of association

125. Turning to the issue of freedom of association, violations come in two
principal forms: restrictions on association of a political nature, and on
the right to form and join independent trade unions.

126. With respect to the right to form and join trade unions, and
notwithstanding the fact that Myanmar is a party to International labour
Organization(ILO) Convention No. 87 of 1948 concerning Freedom of
Association and Protection of the right to Organize, workers and employees
in Myanmar do not enjoy the right to join organizations of their own choice
outside the existing structure. Furthermore, such organizations do not have
the right to join federations and confederations or to affiliate with
international organizations without impediment.

127. The situation in Myanmar was examined by the ILO committed on the
Application of standards at its eighty-second session, in June 1995. As
regards the application by Myanmar of ILO convention No. 87, the committee
took note of the statement of the Myanmar Government representative
indicating his government's commitment to harmonize law and practice with
the Convention. The Committee, however, felt serious concern that the
Government had not acted on the observations of the committee of Experts
over many years, and that no trade unions in the true sense of the term
existed. It recalled that it has been commenting upon the serious
incompatibilities between the Government's law and practice, on the one
hand, and the Convention, on the other hand, for 40 years. Seafarers in
Myanmar were reportedly denied the right to form and independent trade
union for the defence of their basic rights and interests and could not
affiliate with an international federation. It was reported that, through
the Seamen Employment Control Division, the government of Myanmar has
total control over the placement of the approximately 30,000 Myanmar
seafarers, who are allegedly required to sign a contract that they will not
contact the International Transport Workers' Federation.

128. With respect to restrictions on political parties, reports indicate
that in Myanmar political parties are subject to intense and constant
monitoring by SLORC. In this regard, the Special Rapporteur received
several reports of acts aimed at restricting the activities of political
parties, in addition to the existing SLORC orders, including Order 2/88
prohibiting the assembly of "five or more persons" which remains in effect.

129. Although the Special Rapporteur is aware that since the release of Daw
Aung San Suu Kyi, a crowd of tow to three thousand people is gathering
every weekend outside the gate of her residence to hear what she and other
NLD leaders say, the law prohibiting public gatherings without obtaining
permission from local administrative bodies remains in force.

130. Leaders of some political parties are reportedly not allowed to leave
their locality without prior permission from the authorities concerned.
During the Special Rapporteur's meeting with leaders of political parties,
U Aung Shwe, Chairman of NLD, informed him that on 23 October 1991 he was
told verbally not to go outside the Yangon city municipal limits. this
restrictive order still applies to him at the present time. It is reported
that Central Executive Committee and Central Committee members who wish to
travel outside Yangon are required to inform the authorities in advance. On
arrival at their destination they have to report to the local authorities
as well.

131. Distribution of party literature to the public is not allowed and
political parties are generally forbidden to use any printing equipment for
the reproduction and distribution of their bulletins, pamphlets and
statements. the Special Rapporteur is aware of one notable exception,
enjoyed by NUP, which is mentioned in paragraph 61 above.

132. Oppositional or critical political views are not given coverage in the
media. For instance, it was reported that in August 1995 the Myanmar
Government had been jamming Burmese language radio programming by the
British Broadcasting Corporation. this was allegedly done after Daw Aung
San Suu Kyi had given a series of interviews to foreign journalists that
were broadcast into Myanmar that month.

133. Since the withdrawal of the NLD delegates from the National Convention
on 25 November 1995, the Special Rapporteur has received several reports
which indicate that new restrictions have been placed on NLD members and
that Vice-Chairmen U Tin Oo and U Kyi Maung are reportedly under constant
surveillance and routinely harassed.

E. Freedom of movement and forced relocation

134. Freedom of movement is guaranteed by article 13 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. This right includes freedom of movement and
residence within the borders of each State, and the right to leave any
country, including one's own, and to return to one's country.

135. Information received by the Special Rapporteur indicates that freedom
of movement is restricted in Myanmar. Exit from the country requires
possession of specific government authorization, which is allegedly
difficult to obtain. Application for exit visa and passport requires
certificates of nationality and security clearances which many citizens
either do not have or cannot obtain. Passport applications are reviewed by
a board and decisions appear to be dependent on political considerations.
Entry visas for Myanmar citizens who left the country legally or for those
who acquired foreign citizenship are said to be more readily available.

136. With regard to restrictions on the freedom of movement inside the
country, the special Rapporteur notes that only citizens carrying identity
cards are free to travel within the country, which precludes those
residents unable to meet the restrictive provisions of the citizenship law,
for example, the Muslim population living in Rakhine State. In addition,
all citizens are required to inform the authorities of their movements
within the country and the names of overnight guests must be reported to
and registered with the local authorities.

137. During his visit to Myanmar, the Special Rapporteur was pleased to
note that the Government had continued to ease restrictions on foreign
travellers. Several members of intergovernmental and international
non-governmental organizations are permitted to travel through the country
to implement their programmes directly with the concerned population.
Nevertheless, reliable sources informed the Special Rapporteur that certain
persons, such as human rights advocates, journalists and political figures,
continued to be denied entry visas.

138. Other well-documented reports received by the Special Rapporteur
concern violations of the right to own property, as articulated in article
17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The reports refer to cases
of confiscation or destruction of movable and immovable property, for which
only in a very few cases were the victims said to have been given some form
of compensation. People continue to be forcibly relocated, with little or
no compensation, to new towns and villages. In some areas, such as Hlaing,
Thngangyun and Tamwe, displaced home-owners do not get any compensation,
although some were reportedly given the option of buying apartments in the
buildings constructed on the site of their old homes. Usually the cost of
these new apartments is beyond the means of the displaced owners. Most of
those displaced have to buy plots of land in the new townships with their
own money, causing them great financial hardship. The displaced population
are usually faced with great economic difficulties, as their means of
livelihood were connected to the area where they previously lived.

139. The Special Rapporteur received other disturbing reports of the
seizure of arable lands by the authorities to establish new towns or for
military purposes. This results in some farmers being deprived of their
traditional means of subsistence. For example, in September 1995, the
military under the East Command (Taunggyi Headquarters) reportedly started
to occupy agricultural land claimed by the local farmers in Alegyaung
Village, Ywangan Township, Taunggyi Division, Shan State, which belongs to
the Kinda Watershed area. As a result, 30 to 40 farmers have reportedly
lost all of their land, and many other are left with plots too small to

140. Several minority groups in the past have been affected by violations
of property rights. Among the victims were individuals, families and even
entire villages considered guilty by association and consequently subjected
to a policy of extended punishment. Confiscation or demolition of property
has also been systematically applied as a sanction against alleged
insurgent sympathizers. At present, forcible relocations appear to be
taking place mostly in the context of development projects.

F. Labour rights

141. On the question of forced labour, the Special Rapporteur received
during his visit to Myanmar the texts of two recent secret directives of
SLORC which prohibit the practice of labour without payment. The secret
directives in question are SLORC Directives No. 82 and No. 125, the full
and authentic texts of which were received by the Special Rapporteur in the
original Burmese language; an unofficial English translation is reproduced
in annex II to the present report. Directive No.82, which was promulgated
on 27 April 1995, instructs "to stop obtaining labour without compensation
from the local people in irrigation projects". Directive No. 125 "prohibits
unpaid labour contribution in national developments projects". The Special
Rapporteur welcomes the Government's intention to cease the practice of
labour without payment but notes that the contents of neither directive
constitute abrogation of any of the laws under the 1908 Village Act and the
Towns Act, which authorize forced labour under certain conditions and which
are still in force in the country. In addition, the Special Rapporteur
notes that several months after their publication, these directives are
still not public and therefore not accessible to those to whom they would
apply and to those protecting the rights of persons accused of breaking the

142. Given the many complaints received by the Special Rapporteur from
several reliable sources, it seems that neither of the directives is being
implemented rigorously. Men, women and children are allegedly still used as
forced labour for the construction of railways, roads and bridges. They are
reportedly not paid for their work and are allowed only a minimum of food
and rest. Various sources have reported an especially extensive use of
forced labour in relation to several completed or ongoing railway
construction projects. Eyewitnesses travelling through Myanmar by land from
Moulmein to Ye in the Tenassarim Division have reported that resumption of
forced labour on the Ye-Tavoy railway is occurring. According to the
sources, more than 50,000 people are being forced to work on a new section
of the railway from Ye to Kanbauk. Other reports indicate that forced
labour is also being used to repair and widen the highway in Pegu township.
Each household is being allegedly ordered to pay 50 Kyats per member every
2 weeks as their contribution to the construction of this highway.  The
Duties that people are said to perform range from sorting out stones that
come from a quarry, carrying the stones from one point another, shifting
gravel through bamboo leaves and mixing and laying down the tar. The living
conditions of the construction site are said to be very poor, heat and dust
being the major factor of hardship.

143. In June 1995, at the eighty-first session of the International labour
Conference in Geneva, the Special Rapporteur take note of the fact that the
matter of forced labour in Myanmar had been raised before the Committee on
the Application of Standards. The committee could not find a way to agree
with the position of the Government, as reported to the Committee of
Experts, that what was being alleged to be forced labour was actually
voluntary labour. Further, the Committee called upon the Government of
Myanmar to repeal urgently the offensive legal provisions of the Village Act
and the Towns Act to bring them into line with the letter and spirit of the
ILO Convention No.29 concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour, of 1930,
ratified by the Government of Myanmar in 1955.

144. Apart from forced labour, the Special Rapporteur has been informed
that workers in Myanmar do not enjoy basic labour rights including, in
particular, freedom of association and the right to organize.  There is
hardly any trade union movement, and workers and trade unionists who
criticized the Government would risk interrogation and arrest.

C. The National Convention and the process of democratization