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FORUM-ASIA Cautiously Welcomes Consensus Outcome of Human Rights Council Special Session on Burma

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At its special session on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, on 2 October 2007 in Geneva, Switzerland, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution by consensus urging the Government of Burma/Myanmar to allow the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar to visit the country. FORUM-ASIA welcomes the consensual nature of the outcome, but regrets that it was not more action-oriented. FORUM-ASIA nonetheless urges all parties to ensure that the resolution is fully implemented and that it brings about an improvement in the situation on the ground.
(Bangkok) FORUM-ASIA welcomes the fact that the UN Human Rights Council adopted by consensus a resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar on 2 October 2007. The consensual nature of the outcome of the Council’s fifth special session is an important step towards the establishment of the body as a credible force for the protection and promotion of human rights. It is only right that the Council should strongly deplore the violent repression of peaceful demonstrations in Burma/Myanmar. Nonetheless, much remains to be done if the resolution is to lead to a real improvement in the situation of the peoples of Burma/Myanmar

We also note with appreciation the fact that the majority of states that took the floor during the special session either condemned or expressed concern about the recent attacks by the Burmese military on unarmed demonstrators. We are encouraged by the willingness of many Asian states, and in particular the members of the Association of Southeast Asian States, to make their voices heard. We had stressed before the convening of the session the importance of a united stance, and feel that the debate adequately reflected the international community’s revulsion at the brutality of the crackdown.

We welcome the resolution’s request that the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar urgently visit the country, and its call for cooperation from the Government of Burma/Myanmar in this regard. We hope that the visit of the Special Rapporteur will lead to an immediate tangible improvement of the human rights situation on the ground, and to determine the fates of the significant number of demonstrators who were arrested and detained.

We do, however, regret the resolution’s lack of provision for concrete follow-up. For example, the resolution does not seek to establish an ongoing UN human rights presence in Burma/Myanmar, as was proposed in FORUM-ASIA’s urgent appeal prior to the session, as well as its written statement and oral statement, which was delivered at the session itself and was cosponsored by 243 human rights organisations, including 16 NGOs with ECOSOC consultative status. We also regret that our call for a high-level fact-finding mission, led by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, was not taken up, and that the Special Rapporteur has not been asked to report back to the Council until its resumed sixth session, which opens on 10 December.

Nonetheless, we stand willing to lend our support to all efforts to fully implement the terms of the resolution. In this regard FORUM-ASIA:

Urges the Human Rights Council to ensure that every step is taken to ensure that the words of the resolution translate into a real improvement of the human rights situation in Burma/Myanmar. We appeal to all members of the Council not to allow the resolution to become mired in the politicisation that has surrounded the follow-up to previous special sessions in the Council.

Urges the High Commissioner for Human Rights to do everything her mandate allows to ensure that the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar is fully able to carry out what is required of him under operational paragraph 9 of the resolution. As the only concrete action called for under the resolution, the Special Rapporteur’s visit must be carried out as a matter of urgency. We also call upon the High Commissioner to make examine closely the possibilities offered by operational paragraph 7 to for her Office to engage in dialogue with the Government of Burma/Myanmar (SPDC) with a view to ensuring full respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Urges the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar to make every effort to carry out his visit as soon as possible, and to apply himself to the task with the diligence and dedication that the current situation demands.

Urges the Government of Burma/Myanmar (SPDC) not to seek to isolate itself further, to seize this opportunity to engage with the international community, and to fully cooperate with the Special Rapporteur as is called for under the consensus resolution. In particular, we urge the SPDC to grant the Special Rapporteur full access to all facilities in which those arrested following the recent crackdown have been detained.

Urges the members of the Association of Southeast Asian States (ASEAN) to continue to show interest in and concern about the situation in Burma/Myanmar, and to seek to work together to ensure that the Government of Burma/Myanmar cooperates with the Human Rights Council and with other UN bodies.

Urges China and India, as members of the Human Rights Council and close partners of the Government of Burma/Myanmar, to recognise the fact that they are uniquely placed to encourage the SPDC to take meaningful steps in the direction of democratic reform and respect for human rights.

Yours sincerely
Anselmo Lee
Executive Director

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].