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United Nations

GENERAL ASSEMBLY                               

Distr.: General
10 September 1998
Original: English

Fifty-third session

Item 113 (c) of the provisional agenda*

Human rights questions: human rights situations and reports of
special rapporteurs and representatives

              Situation of human rights in Myanmar
                 Note by the Secretary-General

The Secretary-General has the honour to transmit to the
members of the General Assembly the interim report on the
situation of human rights in Myanmar, prepared by Rajsoomer
Lallah, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights,
in accordance with Economic and Social Council decision
1998/261 of 30 July 1998.



Interim report on the situation of human rights in Myanmar
prepared by the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human
Rights in accordance with Economic and Social Council decision
1998/261 of 30 July 1998

                                             Paragraphs Page** 

I.   Introduction..................................1-3    3

II.  Methods of work...............................4-5    3

III. The exercise of civil and political rights....6-32   4
     A. The impact of Myanmar law on human rights..6-9    4  
     B. Rights pertaining to democratic governance.10-26  4
     C. Death in custody...........................27-32  8

IV.  Forced labour.................................33-49  10

V.   Minorities....................................50-54  11

VI.  Conclusions and recommendations...............55-63  12

A.   Conclusions...................................55 59  12

B.   Recommendations...............................60-63  13

**[these page numbers refer to the original printed version] 

                         I.  Introduction

1.  The mandate of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on
Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Myanmar has
been described in each of the Special Rapporteur's previous
reports to the General Assembly(a) and to the Commission on
Human Rights.(b) The mandate, initially articulated by the
Commission in its resolution 1992/58 of 3 March 1992 and
extended most recently in resolution 1998/63 of 21 April 1998
(approved by the Economic and Social Council in its decision
1998/26 of 30 July 1998), required the Special Rapporteur to
establish or to continue direct contact with the Government
and people of Myanmar, including political leaders deprived of
their liberty, their families and their lawyers, with a view
to examining the situation of human rights in Myanmar and
following any progress made towards the establishment of a
constitution of democratic governance, the lifting of
restrictions on personal freedoms and the restoration of human
rights in Myanmar.

2.  In its resolution 1998/63, the Commission called upon the
Government of Myanmar to cooperate fully and unreservedly with
the relevant mechanisms of the Commission, in particular the
Special Rapporteur, and to ensure his access to Myanmar, in
order to establish direct contact with the Government and with
any person in the country whom he might deem appropriate, to
allow him fully to discharge his mandate; requested the
Secretary-General to continue to give all necessary assistance
to the Special Rapporteur to enable him to discharge his
mandate fully and to pursue all efforts to ensure that the
Special Rapporteur was authorized to visit Myanmar. 

3.  The main concerns of the international community with
regard to the situation of human rights in Myanmar are
referred to in the resolutions adopted by the various
competent organs of the United Nations over the past six
years, in particular, General Assembly resolution 52/137 and
Commission resolution 1998/63, which are the most recent. The
major concerns may be summarized, in substance, as follows:

       (a) The electoral process initiated in Myanmar by the
general elections of 27 May 1990 has yet to reach its
conclusion, and the Government still has not implemented its
commitments to take all necessary steps towards the
establishment of a democratic order in the light of those
       (b) Many political leaders, in particular, elected
representatives from the National League for Democracy (NLD),
remain deprived of their liberty; 

       (c) Violations of human rights remain extremely
serious, including, in particular, the practice of torture,
summary and arbitrary executions, forced labour, including
forced portering for the military, abuse of women, politically
motivated arrests and detention, forced displacement, serious
restrictions on the freedoms of expression and association,
and the imposition of oppressive measures directed, in
particular, at ethnic and religious minority groups; 

       (d) Forced relocation and other violations of the
rights of persons belonging to minorities, resulting in a flow
of refugees to neighbouring countries, and continuing
attacks by the military on ethnic groups, resulting in death,
destruction and displacement.

                       II.  Methods of work

4.  With a view to establishing direct contact with the
Government and people of Myanmar, as requested by both the
General Assembly and the Commission, the Special Rapporteur
has written on several occasions to the Government of Myanmar
seeking its cooperation and requesting its authorization to
visit the country. The Government has on more than one
occasion indicated that such a visit would be possible at an
appropriate time, but so far no authorization has been
forthcoming. In the absence of cooperation on the part of the
Government, the Special Rapporteur has continued to rely on
information from governmental, intergovernmental and
non-governmental sources. He has also received several
well-documented information from individuals connected in one
way or another with the situation in Myanmar. He has further
received several well-documented reports describing the
situation in Myanmar, particularly in relation to the matters
over which the General Assembly and the Commission on Human
Rights have expressed serious concern. No less importantly, he
has had direct contact with displaced persons along the
Thailand/Myanmar border who have fled Myanmar and from whom he
continues to receive information.

5.  The present interim report is based upon information
received by the Special Rapporteur up to 30 August 1998 and is
to be read in conjunction with the Special Rapporteur's last
report to the Commission on Human Rights (E/CN.4/1998/63).

         III. The exercise of civil and political rights

A.  The impact of Myanmar law on human rights

6.  The Special Rapporteur has already commented on how, in
Myanmar, several laws criminalize or adversely affect freedom
of thought, information, expression, association and assembly
through fear of arrest, imprisonment and other sanctions. The
most commonly employed laws banning the enjoyment of civil and
political rights and suppressing dissent against the regime
have been the 1923 Official Secrets Act, the 1950 Emergency
Provisions Act, the 1957 Unlawful Associations Act, the 1962
Printers' and Publishers' Registration Law, the 1975 State
Protection Law (Law to Safeguard the State Against the Dangers
of Destructive Elements) and Law No. 5/96 Protecting the
Stable, Peaceful and Systematic Transfer of State 
Responsibility and the Successful Implementation of
National Convention Tasks Free from Disruption and Opposition.

7.  The 1950 Emergency Provisions Act allows the imprisonment
for up to seven years of any person who either infringes upon
the integrity, health, conduct and respect of State military
organizations and government employees, spreads false news
about the Government or disrupts the morality or behaviour of
a group of people. 

8.  The 1975 Law to Safeguard the State Against the Dangers of
Destructive Elements is also used by the regime to carry out
indiscriminate and arbitrary arrests and detention of
political opponents. Under this law, the Council of Ministers
is authorized to pass an order, as may be necessary,
restricting any fundamental right of a person if there are
reasons to believe that any citizen has committed or is
committing or is about to commit any act which infringes the
sovereignty and security of the State or public peace and
tranquillity. The same Law further provides for the detention
to continue for a period not exceeding one year at a time up
to a total of five years. 

9.  Further, numerous Executive Orders, criminalizing many
aspects of normal civilian conduct, prescribing grossly
disproportionate penalties and authorizing arrest and
detention without judicial review, lead to the conclusion that
a significant number of all arrests and detentions are
arbitrary when measured by international standards. The
examples below demonstrate the circumstances in which those
laws continue to be used: 

    (a)   In March 1998, the student leader Aung Tun, 30 years 
old, a Central Executive Committee member of the All Burma
Federation of Students Unions, was sentenced to 15 years
imprisonment for writing a history of the Burmese student
movement. Arrested early in the  year, he was charged under
the 1962 Printing and Publishing Act and section 5(j) of the
Emergency Provision Act 1950; 

    (b)   In early April, Thakhin Ohn Myint, 80 years old, was
sentenced to seven years prison for his part in assisting in
the writing of the history of the student movement. He had
been detained in February but was released in late March.
However, he was rearrested the following day by military
intelligence officers and was later sentenced;

    (c)   In April 1998, Daw San San was sentenced to 25 years
imprisonment. She was arrested on 28 October 1997 after she
had conducted an interview with the British Broadcasting
Corporation on 26 June 1997, in which she had been critical of
the military regime. She was arrested under section 10(a) of
the 1975 State Protection Act, but in April she was charged
under the 1923 Official Secrets Act and sentenced to 25 years.
Daw San San, 58 years old, was initially detained along with
seven members of Parliament from the NLD, including Dr. Than
Nyein and Dr. May Win Myint. All were initially sentenced to
six years imprisonment, but Daw San San's term of imprisonment
was increased to 25 years after she refused to end her
political activities. Daw San San had previously been arrested
in November 1990 and had been sentenced to 20 years under
Penal Code 122 for high treason. She was however, released on
1 May 1992 during an amnesty. Since that detention, the
authorities dismissed her as a Member of Parliament and banned
her from contesting any future elections.

B.  Rights pertaining to democratic governance

10. Many reports indicate that in Myanmar political parties in
opposition continue to be subject to intense and constant
monitoring by the regime, aimed at restricting their
activities and prohibiting members of political parties from
leaving their localities. Existing orders from the State Law
and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), including the 1961
Habitual Offenders Restrictions Act, preclude members of
political parties from leaving their localities or their
houses without prior permission from the authorities;
otherwise they risk arrest and interrogation by the police or
military intelligence agents.

11. The cases reported below have been brought to the
attention of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in

    (a)   A number of NLD elected representatives, including U
Tun Win, Dr. Kyi Min, U Hlaing Aye, U Myint Aung, U Aung Soe,
U Kyaw Myint, U Thein Kyi, U Than Naing, U Myint Thein, U Aung
Myint Thein, U Tha Aung, U Aung San Myint, U Aung Naing and U
Tar have been arrested or charged either under the Criminal
Code or the Habitual Offenders Restriction Act. It is
contended that the authorities have used the Act to restrict
the activities of NLD-elected representatives in a number of
the country's divisions, excluding Yangon Division. A
restraining order has been issued against all elected NLD
representatives, who are required to stay within the confines
of their respective municipalities for a year. They are said 
to have to report to the local police stations at least twice
a day. Ward authorities have been ordered to visit the home of
a representative who reports sick to verify whether the claim
is true. Those refusing to comply with the restraining order
are threatened with arrest;

    (b)   As to the general background of implementation of
these restraining orders, it is also contended that starting
in the night of 25 June 1998, NLD-elected members of
parliament in different parts of Myanmar, excluding Yangon,
have been restrained by township judicial authorities who
acted jointly with the police officials in those townships;

    (c)   In the initial stage, in Bago Division, military
security personnel allegedly were involved in the
implementation of the restraining orders; in the other states
and divisions, only the township judges and the respective
police station are said to have been involved. There has
been a consistent pattern of NLD-elected representatives
being taken to their respective police stations and being
held there overnight in some instances, for two nights. The
NLD representatives would be allowed to take their own
bedding, blankets and mosquito nets; the next morning (or
morning thereafter), they would be released if two
"guarantors" would post bond in the amount of 100,000
kyats each. The township judge would then read out an
order based on the Emergency Powers Law, section 5,
sub-section 1(f) and (g), under which the elected NLD
representatives would be required to "sign in" at the local
police station every day at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. (in some
instances, at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.). This practice is said to
have been designed to prevent the individuals thus restrained
from travelling outside their town's jurisdiction.
Non-compliance with the restraining order would entail a
prison sentence of one year; 

    (d)   It is contended that the NLD leadership has urged
its elected representatives to defy the restraining orders and
that, as a result, a number of arrests have been made by the
authorities. The total number of restrictions in effect for
the whole country now exceeds 50 elected NLD representatives.
The exact number is unknown, since telephone connections to
certain townships and places are said to have been

12. There is no doubt that such practices, if true, would
constitute a violation of basic international human rights
norms, in particular, those proclaimed in articles 9 and 21
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

13. On Thursday, 25 June, security forces prevented four
elected NLD representatives and 40 young men from entering Daw
Aung San Suu Kyi's compound for a regular "reading session".
They were pushed back to the junction of Kabe Aye Sati Road
and University Avenue. When they were informed of the
incident, U Tin Oo, NLD Vice-Chairman, and Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi went to the junction to lead the members back to her
compound. After blocking them at various points, a man in
civilian clothing ordered the security forces to attack the
group. The police proceeded to do so, using batons and
branches from trees which were lying on the roadside. A
statement from NLD said that eight NLD youth members suffered
injuries and Aung San Suu Kyi was also slightly injured. The
location of the incident was a restricted area, thus no one
else was present.

14. The Myanmar authorities, in a statement issued the day
after, said the group had refused legitimate orders to leave
"on security ground(s)" and that after the staging of a
sit-down protest overnight, they had been allowed to enter.
Officials had earlier denied that anyone was injured in the
scuffle and said no arrests had been. The road to Aung San Suu
Kyi's compound remained sealed off on Friday.

15. On Monday, 29 June, in an apparent response to these
events, the Myanmar authorities threatened to take legal
action against Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD. Commentaries run by
three State-owned newspapers stated that the Myanmar
Government and its people could no longer tolerate the acts of
Aung San Suu Kyi, who ignored the interest of the nation and
the people. The newspapers cited Law No. 5/96 which prohibits
individuals or organizations from disturbing, destroying,
obstructing, inciting, delivering speeches, making oral or
written statements and disseminating in order to undermine,
belittle and make people misunderstand the functions being
carried out by the National Convention for the emergence of a
firm and enduring Constitution. A conviction, under Law No.
5/96, carries a minimum sentence of five years, with a maximum
of 20 years imprisonment. 

16. Faced with the gravity of the situation, the Special
Rapporteur issued a press release in which he expressed his
concerns, and on 8 July 1998, he sent a letter to the Minister
for Foreign Affairs in order to seek clarifications. Relevant
parts of the letter are reproduced here below. 

       "I would like to express my concern following recent
reports that members of the NLD continue to be subject to
various forms of restrictions in the normal exercise of their
civil and political activities, as should be the case for
members of a legitimate and legally registered political
party, as indeed for everyone. You will recall, in this
regard, the observations I made in my reports to the General
Assembly and to the Commission on Human Rights over the past
two years in the light of the applicable international norms
and the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and the
Commission, calling upon Myanmar to observe those norms.

       "According to information received, on the afternoon of
25 June 1998, while approaching Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's house,
a group of around 30 NLD writers, journalists and activists
were prevented by the security forces from attending a
"reading session" regularly held at her home. When Daw Aung
San Suu Kyi and U Tin Oo went out to escort the group into the
compound, they were allegedly verbally abused and beaten by
security forces. As a result four young men around Daw Aung
San Suu Kyi were severely beaten, while she herself was
slightly injured. In protest at the refusal to allow the group
access to her compound, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and U Tin Oo
remained with the group, surrounded by security officers,
throughout the night until they were finally allowed to enter
her residence at 8 a.m. the following morning.

       "It has also been reported that a number of NLD members
have been allegedly arrested throughout the country during May
and June 1998. These include six NLD youth leaders, including
Ko Tun Zaw Zaw, as well as Members of Parliament such as Mr.
Mahn Johny from KyongPyaw township; David Hla Myint of
Ngapudaw township and Dr. Tin Min Htut from Pantanaw township.

       "It has been further reported that, as of 25 June 1998,
NLD-elected Members of Parliament in various parts of the
country, excluding Yangon Division, are required to remain
within their township jurisdiction and are required to present
themselves twice a day to the nearest police station in order
to report their presence by signing a declaration. Those who
refuse to sign the declaration are allegedly immediately taken
to custody without any inquiry or trial. Such was reportedly
the case for more than 15 representatives elected from various

       "In as much as all those reported to have been 
arrested were members of NLD, I take this opportunity to
repeat my previous and continuing concerns about the fate of
the over 80 NLD members and sympathizers who have been
arrested since 1990 and who remain detained.

       "With respect to other NLD members, I urge your
Government to ensure their personal integrity and freedom of
expression, including the right to receive and impart
information, freedom of association, assembly and movement.

       "In order to have an accurate and comprehensive view of
the situation, I would greatly appreciate receiving
information which your Government may wish to provide
regarding the events and cases referred in the above
paragraphs, both in respect of the facts themselves and the
applicable legislation. I would also appreciate receiving a
list of the names of any NLD-elected representatives arrested
in Myanmar during the months of May and June 1998 as well as
of those arrested since 1990. 

       "I would further appreciate receiving any other 
details or observations which your Government deems

17. The Special Rapporteur has noted that a reply, dated
10 August 1998, to the substance of his letter was sent, on
behalf of the Permanent Representative of Myanmar to the
United Nations at Geneva, to the Director of Activities and
Programmes Branch of the Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Human rights. It was not addressed to the
Special Rapporteur nor did it make any reference to him. The
Special Rapporteur regrets that the Government of Myanmar is
deliberately ignoring his attempts to establish a constructive
dialogue with the authorities in Myanmar, as requested by the
General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights. 

18. On the substance of the reply, the Special Rapporteur
notes that the Government of Myanmar did not provide the
Special Rapporteur with a list of the names of NLD-elected
representatives arrested in Myanmar during the months of May
and June 1998 or of those arrested since 1990. Nor did the
Government of Myanmar provide the texts of the applicable
legislation in force in the country which is used to justify
the restrictions placed on the activities carried out by NLD.

19. Indeed, although the Special Rapporteur did not receive
the official figures concerning the status of the NLD Members
of Parliament elected in the 1990 elections, he has received
several reports stating that the Election Commission has
dismissed from Parliament all Members who have been charged
with an offence and has banned others from running in future
elections. After the election in 1990, the NLD had 392 of the
485 seats. Since the 1990 election, 112 Members of Parliament
have apparently been forced from office or dismissed by the
Election Commission. This represents more than a quarter, or
28 per cent, of the 392 NLD Members of Parliament who were
elected under the NLD banner. Seventy-eight Members of
Parliament   all from the NLD   have been jailed since the
election and two (U Tin Maung Win and U Hla Than) have died in
prison. At the moment, there are 42 NLD Members of Parliament
who remain under detention in Myanmar for their political
activities. Furthermore, as a result of threats and
intimidation from the authorities, 20 opposition Members of
Parliament, most of whom are from the NLD, have fled Myanmar.

20. It would appear that, given the refusal of the authorities
to establish a genuine dialogue with the leadership of the NLD
and the failure to convene the National Assembly, the NLD
leadership has embarked on a campaign designated to achieve
those ends by resorting to political actions in line with the
normal exercise of basic civil and political rights. It would
appear that the NLD had formally called the regime to convene
the National Assembly by 21 August 1998 and had sought to
exercise its right to conduct normal political activities by
visiting members and sympathizers of the party outside Yangon.

21. On Tuesday, 7 July, Aung San Suu Kyi and Aung Shwe
attempted to go to Min Hla township (147 km north of Yangon)
to meet with a party member. They were stopped by the police
80 km from Yangon and ordered to return home. Aung San Suu Kyi
and Aung Shwe refused and staged an overnight sit-in protest
in her car at Shwe Mya Yar village. According to the
authorities, the trip outside her home, without a customary
security-forces escort, followed by her refusal to return
home, amounted to a challenge to governmental authority amid a
wider push to hasten civilian rule. The following day,
however, the Government announced that it had allowed her to
meet with the party member, Hla Hla Moe. Arrangements were
made to bring Hla Hla Moe to Shwe Mya Yar to meet with the
NLD leader on the morning of 8 July. After the meeting, both
parties returned home. 

22. On 24 July 1998, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was stopped by local
authorities about 51 miles (32 km) west of Yangon as she
attempted to drive to Bassein, 100 miles (160 km) west of the
capital, to meet members of her political party, the National
League for Democracy. The authorities refused to let her
proceed, and she refused to return to Yangon. As a result, Daw
Aung San Suu Kyi spent five days stuck in a car on a rural
highway surrounded by governmental security personnel. While
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and members of their party were staying
near Anyarsu and Pandine villages because of the blockade, the
authorities, on 30 July 1998, ordered the security forces to
use force to remove them. The General Secretary was physically
forced into a car and driven back to her home without her
consent. The authorities also drove the car belonging to the
General Secretary back to her home without her permission. The
remaining Central Executive Committee member and two other
members of the party were also forced into the cars of the
authorities and driven back.

23. On 28 July 1998, the United Nations High Commissioner for
Human Rights issued a press release expressing concern over
reports of a standoff in Myanmar between the military and Aung
San Suu Kyi and urging the Government of Myanmar to accept a
visit of the Special Rapporteur to Myanmar. The press release
reads as follows:

       "The reports coming from Myanmar regarding the refusal
of the military authorities to allow Aung San Suu Kyi to
travel freely give cause for great concern. The incident is
the latest in what appears to be a developing pattern of
restriction of the rights to freedom of movement and to
freedom of association of Mrs. Suu Kyi and members of the
National League for Democracy. According to the information
received, Mrs. Suu Kyi is today spending the fifth day in her
car after being stopped on the road while going to visit
supporters of her party outside of Yangon.  There are
legitimate concerns about Mrs. Suu Kyi's health and her
security during this standoff. 

       "This incident provides stark evidence of the need for
the Government to enter into a frank and sincere dialogue with
civil society in Myanmar as a way of overcoming the political
difficulties the country is facing.

       "I urge the Government of Myanmar to work with Mrs. Suu
Kyi and her supporters to resolve the current standoff
peacefully and quickly. I also call on the Government to
guarantee the rights of freedom of movement and association of
all citizens and to accelerate the process of national
reconciliation leading to the enjoyment of all human rights. I
reiterate my recent request to the Government to facilitate a
visit by the Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur for
Myanmar, who has been seeking such a visit for a lengthy

24. On 12 August, in another attempt to travel outside her
residence to meet members of her political party in the city
of Pathein (Ayarwaddy Division), Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
together, with U Hla Pe and a driver, were again stopped
by the authorities at Anyarsu village, located 20 miles
south-west of Yangon. After spending 12 days on the spot,
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and colleagues returned home without
being able to reach Pathein and hold meetings with local NLD

25. The authorities of Myanmar, through "information sheets"
received on a daily basis from the Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights, recounted these events and
justified the actions taken   i.e., not to allow Daw Aung
San Suu Kyi to travel outside Yangon and to meet with members
of the NLD outside her residence, by invoking security
concerns. In an information sheet dated 12 August 1998, it is
stated that the Government of Myanmar regretted that security
conditions in Ayarwaddy Division made it unsafe for Daw Suu
Kyi to travel there at that time but that the Government
encouraged her to return home and continue her political
activities in a more secure environment in Yangon. She and her
companions remained free to return to their homes at any time
or to stay by the roadside as long as conditions remained
safe. Furthermore, Myanmar authorities reported in an
information sheet dated 23 August 1998 that, to ensure the
health and safety of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her companions,
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's personal physicians had been given full
access to her at any time and the Government was continuing to
provide an ambulance and a medical team on stand-by
exclusively for their use. While Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her
companions continued their stay at Anyarsu village, food,
water, clothing and other amenities had been made available by
the Government as well as other private sources.

26. The Special Rapporteur welcomes the fact that on 18 and 24
August 1998, Secretary 1 of the State Peace and Development
Council (SPDC) met with the Chairman of the NLD. The Special
Rapporteur hopes that these recent meetings will lead to a
genuine dialogue and will not be inconclusive, as was the case
in July and September 1997.