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United Nations          A/53/657

General Assembly
Distr.: General
10 November 1998
Original: English
Fifty-third session
Agenda item 110 (c)

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

Situation of human rights in Myanmar

Report of the Secretary-General 

I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to paragraph
21 of General Assembly resolution 52/137 of 12 December
1997, entitled "Situation of human rights in Myanmar", in
which the Assembly requested me to continue my discussions
with the Government of Myanmar in order to assist in the
implementation of that resolution, and to report to the
Assembly at its fifty-third session and to the Commission on
Human Rights at its fifty-fourth session.

2. As I have indicated in previous reports, I consider the
role entrusted to me by the General Assembly, and reaffirmed
by the Commission on Human Rights, as being essentially one
of good offices, in contrast to the fact-finding mandate
assigned by the Commission to the Special Rapporteur.

3. Member States will be aware from my report to the
Commission on Human Rights at its fifty-fourth session
(E/CN.4/1998/163) of the visit to Myanmar, as my Special
Envoy, of Mr. Alvaro de Soto, Assistant Secretary-General
for Political Affairs, which took place from 20 to 23 January
1998. During his visit, he held talks with the Chairman of the
State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and Prime
Minister of the Union of Myanmar, Senior General Than
Shwe; Secretary-1 of the SPDC, Lieutenant-General Khin
Nyunt; and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, U Ohn Gyaw. He
also held discussions with the National League for Democracy
(NLD), including its General Secretary, Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi, and the National Unity Party (NUP). 

4. In view of developments in Myanmar in July 1998, I
wrote to Senior General Than Shwe on 7 August 1998 to
convey to him my wish to send a special emissary, Tan Sri
Razali Ismail, who was President of the General Assembly
at its fifty-first session, to discuss matters of mutual concern
at Yangon. In his reply of 9 August 1998, Senior General
Than Shwe considered that the time was not appropriate for
this visit to take place. Subsequently, in a meeting with
Foreign Minister U Ohn Gyaw on the sidelines of the
Non-Aligned Summit Meeting at Durban on 4 September
1998, I recommended more constant dialogue between the
SPDC and the NLD, and I again proposed the visit of Tan Sri
Razali. However, the Foreign Minister indicated that such a
visit was not urgent given the progress being made to resolve
the situation that had prompted my request in July 1998.

5.  On 25 September 1998, Mr. de Soto met Foreign
Minister U Ohn Gyaw at United Nations Headquarters in New
York. During this meeting, in response to a proposal made
in July, the Foreign Minister conveyed to Mr. de Soto his
Government's willingness to receive him at Yangon as my
Special Envoy. Accordingly, he visited Yangon from 27 to
30 October 1998. During his visit, Mr. de Soto held
consultations with Secretary-1 of the SPDC,
Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt; Foreign Minister U Ohn
Gyaw; and Brigadier-General David Abel, Minister in the
Office of the Prime Minister. He also held discussions with
the NLD, including its General Secretary Daw Aung San Suu

II.  Discussions with the Government of Myanmar

6. In the course of his two visits to Yangon and at his
meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs in New York,
my Special Envoy discussed with his interlocutors a range of
issues that have repeatedly been raised by the General
Assembly and the Human Rights Commission in their annual
resolutions, in particular progress towards the restoration of
democracy in the light of the results of the 1990 elections; the
opening of a substantive dialogue with political parties,
particularly the NLD and its General Secretary, Daw Aung
San Suu Kyi, and with representatives of the national races;
restrictions on the functioning of the NLD and other political
parties; and the situation of human rights and in this
connection the need for the Special Rapporteur to visit

7. During his meetings with government officials, my
Special Envoy stressed my desire to assist in bridging the
differences that separate Myanmar from the international
community and the consequent importance of addressing the
concerns raised in the General Assembly. In particular, my
Envoy encouraged the Government to open a genuine
dialogue with the NLD as the party that had won the majority
of votes and the overwhelming number of seats at the 1990
elections, and suggested that the dialogue which according
to the Government it was holding with the national races
should be intensified and made more transparent. My Envoy
also suggested that since the Government was intent on
promoting an inclusive approach towards the armed insurgent
groups, some of whom had been fighting the central
Government since independence, it should also adopt a
similarly inclusive approach in the case of the NLD. In
conclusion, my Envoy urged the Government to give visible
signals that it was indeed moving towards democracy and a
multiparty system, its declared goal.

8. My Envoy pointed out that the Secretary-General's
mandate, being one of discreet good offices, did not include
detailed reporting on the factual situation regarding human
rights in Myanmar since that responsibility rested with the
Special Rapporteur designated by the Commission of Human
Rights for that purpose. My Envoy's visits should therefore
not be considered a substitute for those of the Special
Rapporteur, who if allowed to enter Myanmar would be able
to observe the situation in the country at first hand and report
on it without having to rely largely on outside sources for his
information and also taking into account the Government's

9. Following my Special Envoy's visit in February 1998,
I wrote to the Chairman of the SPDC, requesting the
Government to consider taking concrete steps of the kind
suggested by Mr. de Soto, such as the renewal of a dialogue
with the NLD, the amendment of laws restricting political
rights and freedoms, the release of persons in detention or
imprisoned for politically related offences and the setting of
a date for a visit by the Special Rapporteur. In response, the
Government, without addressing my suggestions, informed
me that it would continue to move forward "in a systematic
way towards [the] goal of a peaceful, prosperous, modern and
developed State with a multi-party democratic system and a
market-oriented economy". 

10. On the question of opening a substantive dialogue with
political parties, in particular the NLD and Daw Aung San
Suu Kyi, the Government maintained that the negative
approach of the NLD, and Aung San Suu Kyi in particular,
towards the Government's actions made it difficult to
establish contacts with that political party. The Government,
however, drew attention to the meeting between Secretary-1
of the SPDC and U Aung Shwe, Chairman of the NLD, which
had taken place on 18 August 1998, which it considered
fruitful and which it had expected to be the first of a series of
confidence-building talks between the Government and the
NLD. However, this had not materialized because of the
NLD's call, on 21 August 1998, for the convening of the
national parliament, which the Government considered highly
confrontational and potentially destabilizing, especially with
the subsequent establishment on 17 September 1998 at the
initiative of the NLD of the "Committee Representing the
People's Parliament Elected by the 1990 Multiparty
Democratic General Elections". The Government reiterated
that it was not opposed to a dialogue with the NLD provided
that there was a change in attitude on the part of the NLD and
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

11. With regard to the detention of several hundred
members of parliament and other NLD members, the
Government explained that the attempt to convene the
parliament had forced it to take preventive action, but that
they were being released gradually and would be released
immediately if the NLD renounced its call for the parliament
to assemble.

12. On the issue of the freedom of political parties, the
Government stated that the prevalence of peace and stability
throughout the country was a prerequisite for
democratization, as was progress towards development. It
pointed out that the NLD, in cooperation with some
international actors, had tried to undermine the achievements
of the Government and had attempted to incite unrest among
the population with the objective of assuming power and that
the Government could not tolerate such activities, which taken
to the extreme might result in bloodshed.

13. As for the curtailment of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's
freedom of movement, the Government replied that her call
for a boycott of investment and tourism and her support of
sanctions had rendered her widely unpopular, and that the
decision to restrict her movements had stemmed out of
concerns for her own safety.

14. On the situation of the national races, the Government
declared that its priority was to achieve "national
reconsolidation" by bringing all the armed ethnic groups "into
the legal fold". To date 17 armed groups had done so, and the
Constitution being drafted, which would give important
powers to the States, Divisions and self-autonomous areas
and zones, would adequately reflect their views.

15. Regarding the visit of the Special Rapporteur, the
Government reiterated that he would be invited to visit at an
opportune time. 

16. The NLD, for its part, reported an overall deterioration
of the situation in the country, with continued and widespread
harassment against its members and supporters, including
forced resignations from the party, arbitrary arrests, torture,
suppression of freedom of expression and association, and
severe and enforced restrictions on movement, as well as on
other normal political activities. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,
although not required any longer to inform the authorities
about her movements, was prevented from leaving Yangon
and meeting NLD members in the provinces. In addition, the
general population were being denied the right to education
and economic development, while forced relocation and
labour continued in Myanmar on a large scale, particularly
in the ethnic minority areas. 

17. The NLD leadership considered that the meeting
between its Chairman and Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt in
August 1998 had not amounted to the beginning of a dialogue,
and that at any rate the composition of the delegation that
would represent the NLD at such talks should be a matter to
be decided by the Central Executive Committee and was not
for the SPDC to dictate.

18. Regarding the party's call in June 1998 for the
convening of parliament   the NLD stated that it was its
responsibility, eight years after the failure of the People's
Parliament (Pyithu Hluttaaw) elected in 1990 to convene  
to implement the will of the people and that its aim was
neither confrontation nor an attempt to assume power but to
accelerate the opening of a meaningful dialogue with the
Government. The "Committee Representing the People's
Parliament Elected by the 1990 Multiparty Democratic
General Elections" had been empowered by 251 members of
parliament, out of a total of 459 elected members still alive,
to act on their behalf in view of their inability to meet due to
their arrest, imprisonment or restrictions on their freedom of

III.     Observations

19. I must register my disappointment at my inability to
report genuine, substantive progress on the part of the
Myanmar Government in addressing the appeals to it in
repeated General Assembly resolutions, notwithstanding my
efforts. I am concerned at the deterioration in the situation and
the tensions that have arisen. I believe such efforts should be
intensified in the coming months.