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Asian NGOs Make Joint Statement at Human Rights Council Special Session on Burma

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In advance of the UN Human Rights Council’s special session on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, FORUM-ASIA and 16 other NGOs with ECOSOC status submitted a written statement calling on the Council to take action, in the form of a high-level fact-finding mission and the establishment of a monitoring presence on the ground in Burma/Myanmar.

Joint Written Statement by Asian NGOs at the Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar

This statement was delivered on behalf of the following NGOs with ECOSOC consultative status:


  1. Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK)
  2. Asian Center for Human Rights (ACHR)
  3. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  4. Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ANGOC)
  5. Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development (APWLD)
  6. Asian Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW)
  7. Asian Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Asia (AsiaDHRRA)
  8. Earth Rights International (ERI)
  9. International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID)
  10. International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
  11. International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW-AP)
  12. MINBYUN – Lawyers for a Democratic Society
  13. Pax Romana
  14. Peace Boat
  15. People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD)
  16. Tebtebba Foundation (Indigenous Peoples' International Centre for Policy Research and Education)

In 1988 the outside world stood by as the Burmese military opened fire on demonstrators calling for a return to democracy, killing over three thousand. 19 years on and somehow the resolve of the peoples of Burma persists, as does the brutality of the military regime that illegitimately seized power in the aftermath of the 1988 uprising. Last week the soldiers once more aimed their weapons at unarmed civilians seeking to exercise their human rights. The courage of the monks, nuns and other civilians who took to the streets captured the attention of the world. The revulsion and horror at the authorities’ reaction was equally widespread.

The events of recent weeks are but another example of the brazen disregard of the so-called State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC, for international human rights norms and for the dignity of the long-suffering peoples of Burma. We have at this stage ample evidence of widespread and systematic human rights violations in the country, including summary executions, forced labour practices, forced displacement, sexual violence and the recruitment of child soldiers. Impunity is rampant. The military’s campaigns in ethnic areas, involving the direct targeting of civilians and civilian objects in clear contravention of international humanitarian law, have displaced over a million people.

The latest democratic uprising shows that the SPDC’s roadmap to democracy has failed. On 30 August 2003, then Burmese Prime Minister General Khin Nyunt declared the seven point roadmap to scuttle the initiative of Thailand under the aegis of the “Forum on International Support for National Reconciliation in Myanmar.” The Forum also failed to take off.
We have all heard how the adoption of General Assembly Resolution 60/251 marked a historic turning point in the protection and promotion of human rights. The Resolution tasks the Human Rights Council with addressing situations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations. How then will the Council address the situation in Burma/Myanmar? We warmly welcome the convening of this special session, which has ensured that the spotlight remains on the Burmese junta. This has been yet another boost to the credibility of the nascent body.
We urge the members of the Council to build upon this achievement, and to make full use of the opportunity presented by this special session. The United Nations must not be misled again by the SPDC. A unified stand on the situation in Burma/Myanmar is needed. We therefore appeal to you to adopt an action-orientated resolution providing, at the very least, for:

  1. The establishment and deployment of a fact-finding mission mandated to thoroughly investigate gross human rights violations committed by the SPDC in response to the recent peaceful demonstrations in Burma/Myanmar. We would favour a high-level mission, led by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and including the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, to guarantee maximum exposure. Alternatively, the mission could be led by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar and could include international experts and/or relevant thematic mandate holders such as those dealing with human rights defenders, freedom of expression, arbitrary detention, torture, disappearance and extrajudicial execution. Irrespective of which option is chosen, the mission must report back to the Council, through the Council President, immediately after its return. Its report should include concrete recommendations, inter alia on how the perpetrators of recent attacks on civilians should be brought to justice. The resolution must also provide a contingency plan should the Government of Burma/Myanmar refuse to cooperate, by for example not issuing visas to the members of the mission. The Council should be fully prepared to convene another special session, depending on how the situation develops.
  2. The establishment and deployment to Burma/Myanmar of an independent monitoring team, mandated to assess the broader human rights situation in the country, covering civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and to supervise implementation of the recommendations of the fact-finding mission. One of the team’s key goals should be the identification of the root causes of the recent violence. The team should be coordinated by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and should report back regularly to the Council through the High Commissioner for Human Rights herself.

We urge the Asian members of the Human Rights Council, and in particular the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to take a leading role on this issue. Asian involvement is essential if the Council is to speak out against the recent atrocities with an authoritative voice. We have noted that the call for a special session was co-sponsored by South Korea and Japan, but deeply regret the fact that no other Asian government has yet decided to lend its support to the initiative.

Finally, we urge the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) of Myanmar to immediately cease its violent acts; to bring to justice those that opened fire on unarmed civilians, and those who ordered such attacks; to release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners, as well as those arrested in the aftermath of the recent demonstrations; and to engage immediately in inclusive and meaningful dialogue on democratic reform with all stakeholders.

For more information please contact Anselmo Lee, Executive Director, + 66 81 868 9178 (Mobile), [email protected]; or Pokpong Lawansiri, Programme Officer on Burma and Thailand , +66 (0) 86 603 8844, [email protected].