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Statement of Special Rapporteur on

Address by Prof. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, United Nations Special
Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar
to the UN Commission on Human RightsGeneva 6 April 2001, 6 p.m.

Mr. Chairman, Deputy High Commissioner, Excellencies, ladies and
gentlemen, I would like to express my satisfaction with the
opportunity to intervene in this session of the Commission on Human
Rights under the Chairmanship of  Ambassador Leandro Despouy.

As I am returning to the group of Special Rapporteurs and to the
Commission  on Human Rights to report on the situation of human rights
in Myanmar, I would like to thank very warmly the former Chairman of
this Commission,  Ambassador Simkhada for my appointment to that

I would also like to honour the work done by my dear and eminent
predecessors, Professor Yozo Yokota and Justice Rajsoomer Lallah, for
their  impeccable dedication to this mandate which I hope to be able
to follow. I want also to thank Mr. Predrag Zivkovic, my colleague
from the Office of  the High Commissioner for Human Rights, for his

I would like to acknowledge and express my gratitude for the full
cooperation I received from the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the
Director-General of the Department of International Organisations, and
the  Permanent Representative of the Union of Myanmar in Geneva, prior
and during my visit to the country. In addition, the UN Resident
Representatives in Bangkok and Yangon have most kindly facilitated the

extremely demanding logistical needs of my recent visit.

I take this opportunity to affirm before this Commission that the
principal  reference in fulfilment of my mandate is and will always
remain the  promotion of best interests of the victims of human rights

I wish to assure the Commission that I will not fail to speak very
clearly  about the situation of human rights in Myanmar. I will report
in an independent, objective, fair and transparent way under the terms
of my fact-finding mandate. I will aim to offer my voice to the people
and the  civil society of Myanmar, presenting their allegations to the
Government  and requesting their effective action to provide redress
and prevent further violations.

I am aware that I am coming to a particularly difficult and
challenging  mandate, but - judging by signs of changes reported by a
number of Myanmar  observers in recent months ? I believe that the
country is currently about  to enter a new phase which the Commission
of Human Rights and the international community must acknowledge and
act upon. In this specific conjuncture I understand that under the
terms of the resolution on Myanmar,  my role is also to seize every
window of opportunity to contribute to the  improvement of the
promotion and the protection of human rights in the  country. In this
endeavour, I will work together with the Government of  Myanmar, the
opposition, members of the emerging civil society, United Nations
organisations, and the international community at large.

As you know, I was appointed to this mandate on 28 December 2000,
following the resignation of Justice Rajsoomer Lallah in November last
year. Since my appointment I conducted three missions to Geneva, one
to New York and one  field mission to Japan, Malaysia, Thailand from
24 March to 2 April 2001.

The visit to Myanmar took place between 3 and 5 April, and I will use
this  opportunity to brief the Commission about my preliminary
observations on  the latest developments in Myanmar. A more complete
mission report will be  included in the forthcoming report to the
General Assembly later this year.

Taking into account the activities and reports submitted by my two
predecessors, Professor Yokota and Justice Lallah, whom I have
contacted,  and further to consultations with Governments, United
Nations agencies and experts on the human rights situation in Myanmar,
I made my first priority to create conditions to be able to be invited
by the Government of the  Union of Myanmar to visit the country.

Also taking into account the time constraints and the current
realities on  the ground, I decided to make this first country visit
exploratory - to  establish channels of communication and to build
mutual trust and confidence with the Government. I am pleased to
report that those terms of  reference, which were intentionally
limited, were fully accomplished. In  Yangon I met with Secretary (1)
of the State Peace and Development Council  (SPDC), Minister of
Foreign Affairs, Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of  Labour, and
other senior Government officials.

In addition, I met with representatives of the political opposition in

Myanmar. I was received by the leader of the National League for
Democracy  (NLD), Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, at her house and I was able to
attest that she  is in excellent health. Separately I also had the
possibility to meet with  other senior NLD officials, U Lwin,
Secretary General, and his colleagues U  Nyunt We, U Than Tun, U Hla
Pe, and U Soe Myint, to hear their analysis of  the present political
situation and perspectives for the future.

I also met representatives of ethnic and religious communities,
diplomatic  and business community, and representatives of United
Nations and other  international organisations working in the country.

My mission to Japan, Malaysia and Thailand was inspired by the need to

learn and better understand the perspectives of those countries on the

human rights and humanitarian situation in Myanmar, and their
corresponding  national policies. I am pleased to report very fruitful
discussions with  Government officials, civil society and members of
the legislative bodies  of those states.

I also had the honour to meet on two occasions, in New York and Kuala
Lumpur, with the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Myanmar,
Amb.  Razali Ismail, to whom I proposed to coordinate our future
activities,  which he accepted.

I conducted my mission against the background of the recent news
brought by  Amb. Razali that a process of dialogue between the
Government of Myanmar and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the NLD,
had started. In this connection I take note that no official statement
has yet been made  by either of the two parties to the dialogue. In
consequence, I have no  further information concerning those both
sides to share with the Commission at the present moment.
Notwithstanding, I have received  numerous indications from human
rights observers, ethnic groups and civil  society organisations that
a great deal of hope is placed on such a dialogue as a means to open
the doors for a free, democratic and peaceful Myanmar.

As indicated above, the nature of my mandate is fact-finding. I have
not  yet had the opportunity to make a first-hand and objective
analysis of the  situation of human rights in Myanmar, but I am
confident that a suitable  opportunity will arise in the near future,
in the course of forthcoming  missions and throughout the duration of
my mandate.

I take note of information received from reliable sources that in some

areas where the authorities have accepted independent observation,
such as  in prisons, there has reportedly been some improvement.

I take note of the fact that the Government of Myanmar released from
detention a number of members of the opposition. In connection with
this  matter, during my visit I expressed my opinion to the Government
that there  is an urgent need to consider the release of the old, the
mentally disturbed and those prisoners whose sentences have reportedly
already expired. I received the assurance that the Government took
note of my  intervention and that it will give it due consideration on
a case-by-case basis. I intend to remain seized of this important
issue and will continue  following it up with the authorities.

I take note of a series of steps taken by the Government recently,
including their willingness to engage with United Nations and the
international community by entering into a dialogue with the Human
Rights  Commission through the Special Rapporteur, and their continued
cooperation with the Secretary General's envoy, Amb. Razali.

I take note with satisfaction that the government of Myanmar has
constituted a 20-member Human Rights Committee under the patronage of
Secretary (1) of the State Peace and Development Council in April
2000. The  Committee has eight working groups dealing with issues
ranging from international human rights law, health, education and
labour. During my  mission I had an opportunity to meet with the
Committee and have a brief  exchange of views on the human rights
situation in Myanmar. The work of the Committee is clearly in its very
early stages, which makes an objective  assessment difficult at

During my visit I expressed to the Minister of Labour that I was
encouraged  by the resumption of a dialogue between the International
Labour Organisation and the Government of Myanmar concerning forced
labour, and  hopes that the authorities will be able to find ways to
establish modalities for cooperation for objective and fair assessment
after several  legislative changes concerning this question.

I believe that, despite not being able to carry out a full
fact-finding  mission during the short time since my appointment,
there are several signs  that indicate an evolution leading to an
eventual political opening.

The present juncture requires search for consistent approach, with
emphasis  on dialogue, allowing different actors both those within and
outside the country, to work towards the same goal despite eventual

I am convinced that the best hopes for governance reforms in Myanmar
require a mix of long-term strategies and immediate steps. Among those

steps, as I conveyed to the Government, are the freedom of expression
and  assembly, the early release of political prisoners,
liberalisation of the  media space and strengthening of the civil
society and the right to  participation in public life. Those
initiatives will contribute to the  process of confidence building in
the country.

There are also some pressing social needs that cannot continue to be
neglected. Among those there is the requirement for the alleviation
the  humanitarian needs: some solutions cannot wait any longer.
However, I  believe that the Government should create the situation
whereby such  international assistance could be given and effectively
reach the most  vulnerable sections of the population, such as
children, persons affected  by HIV/AIDS, and the poor.

This approach must be built upon existing initiatives and measures
already  in place. Any positive initiative must be acknowledged and
encouraged by  the international community, which must be prepared to
offer positive answers to any indicators of real progress towards
democratisation and  strengthening of human rights protection.

I am convinced that the deepening of the isolation of Myanmar should
be  avoided. If the international community wants to contribute for
the promotion of human rights, it is necessary to find ways to
increase the  integration of Myanmar into the international community.