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UN human rights expert on Burma must be granted full cooperation during his visit

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The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma has been granted permission to visit the country for the first time in four years. The full cooperation of the Burmese government is now essential if the visit is to contribute to an improvement in the human rights situation on the ground. 

(Bangkok, 27 October 2007) The Burmese government agreed on 19 October 2007 to a visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Prof. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro. The junta’s acceptance came one month after it cracked down violently on widespread street protests in the country, and followed the adoption by consensus of a resolution in a special session of the UN Human Rights Council requesting the Special Rapporteur to seek an “urgent visit” to Burma.    In a press statement , FORUM-ASIA welcomed the announcement, but stressed that cooperation by the Burmese government will be crucial if Pinheiro’s mission is to be successful. 

The Special Rapporteur’s visit must lead to the establishment of key facts, including the true numbers killed, injured and detained during the recent crackdown.  The junta has reported only ten deaths, though this figure has been questioned by observers, journalists and pro-democracy activists, with one source saying that as many as 800 were killed.1  Furthermore, there have been reports of an ongoing “witch-hunt” by the Burmese military, with soldiers continuing to round up those suspected of taking part in last month’s demonstrations.   Pinheiro must be able to look into these and other allegations if he is to provide the international community with the information it needs to take further action.2 Full access to detainees and to places of detention will be essential.  

FORUM-ASIA’s statement called on the international community, and in particular the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to continue to pressure the Burmese government to cooperate with the UN expert.  It also reiterated the call made by FORUM-ASIA and over 200 other NGOs at the special session for the establishment of a UN human rights monitoring presence in Burma as a preventive mechanism against future human rights abuses. 

Pinheiro is expected to visit Burma before the ASEAN Summit on 19 November 2007.  He was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar in 2001, but has been denied access to the country since November 2003.  He is due to report back to the Human Rights Council on 11 December 2007. 

1 Pinheiro given assurance of “full cooperation”. Mizzima News. 25 October 2007.
2 UN Human Rights Expert to Probe Burma’s Repression. By Victoria Cavaliere, Voice of America. 25 October 2007.