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Statement of Special Rapporteur on
- Subject: Statement of Special Rapporteur on
- From: darnott@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2001 09:50:00
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
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
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.