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FORUM-ASIA Welcomes Announcement That UN Rights Expert Will Be Able to Visit Burma

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The Burmese government has announced that it will allow the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar to visit the country.  FORUM-ASIA welcomes the announcement, but stresses the need for full cooperation by the Burmese authorities if the visit is to be effective.

FORUM-ASIA welcomes the announcement that the Burmese government has agreed to a visit by Prof. Paolo Sergio Pinheiro, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.  The Special Rapporteur’s visit is essential if the nature and extent of recent human rights violations in the country are to be understood.  We continue to be deeply concerned by the ongoing crackdown against pro-democracy activists in Burma.  We urge the Burmese government to fully cooperate with Prof. Pinheiro during his visit, including by granting him access to all detainees and places of detention.  Burma’s regional partners, and in particular China, India and the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), must continue to use their influence to ensure that the Special Rapporteur is able to carry out a meaningful fact-finding mission.  The outcome of the mission must provide a basis for further UN action. 

It is crucial that the Special Rapporteur is able to establish key facts, including the following:

  • The true numbers killed, injured and detained during the recent crackdown
  • The exact whereabouts of those that have been arrested and detained
  • The conditions in which those that have been detained are being held
  • The extent to which those that have been detained have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment.

The overriding aim of the Special Rapporteur’s visit should be a real improvement in the human rights situation on the ground.  His report must contain concrete, actionable recommendations to this end.  There is in particular a pressing need to put in place preventive measures to halt ongoing human rights violations. The root causes of the recent violence in Burma must also be assessed.  FORUM-ASIA reiterates its call for the establishment of an ongoing UN human rights monitoring presence in Burma in this regard. 

The Special Rapporteur’s visit will take place in the context of UN Human Rights Council resolution S-5/1, adopted by consensus at the Council’s “special session on the situation of human rights in Myanmar” on 2 October 2007.  The resolution asks the Special Rapporteur to assess the current human rights situation in the country, including by seeking an urgent visit. He will report back to the Council during its resumed sixth session, in early December 2007.  Prof. Pinheiro was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar in December 2000.  He has been denied access to the country since November 2003. 

The international community must stand ready to respond immediately, and in a unified manner, if the Special Rapporteur is prevented from carrying out his mandate.  If Prof. Pinheiro is unable to establish the basic facts outlined above, the UN Human Rights Council should dispatch a high-level fact-finding mission to Burma at once, as called for by a large group of Asian and international NGOs during the Council’s special session earlier this month.  To ensure maximum visibility and exposure, this high-level mission should include the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Louise Arbour. 

For more information please contact Anselmo Lee, Executive Director, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), + 66 (0) 81 868 9178 (mobile), [email protected] ; or Pokpong Lawansiri, Programme Officer on Burma and Thailand , +66 (0) 86 603 8844, [email protected] .