Wed 29 Sep 2004
Filed under: International,News
Bangkok: A top U.N. rights envoy condemned on Wednesday the arrest and jailing of opposition activists in military-ruled Myanmar and said he had received credible reports of rights violations in border areas.
Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, denied entry to the former Burma earlier this year, said the dismal human rights situation in Myanmar had not improved despite the junta’s pledge to work towards national reconciliation last year.
“Since the beginning of this year, the Special Rapporteur has received several reports about continuing arrests and harsh sentences for peaceful political activities,” Pinheiro said in his latest report.
“All political prisoners must be released immediately and unconditionally, and no further arrests or punishment for peaceful activities should take place.”
The Brazilian academic said he had received “credible and detailed reports” of rights violations in border areas where government forces are battling ethnic rebel groups.
He gave no further details.
He said there was no sign of when democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi would be freed from house arrest, or curbs lifted on her opposition National League for Democracy (NLD).
Last week, four NLD officials were jailed for seven years after a closed trial inside Yangon’s Insein prison. The two men and two women were charged with sending NLD statements to dissident groups on the Thai border.
NLD lawyers said there was no hard evidence against their clients, adding that they confessed under interrogation by military intelligence officials.
In his report, Pinheiro highlighted the case of two NLD members — Than Than Tay and Tin Myint — arrested in June and accused of communicating with groups on the border.
“Their whereabouts appear to be unknown and they potentially face long-term imprisonment,” he said.
The junta is holding more than 1,300 political prisoners and Pinheiro called for the immediate release of 50 detainees he said were in poor health.
A democratic transition under the junta’s “roadmap to democracy” would be impossible unless Myanmar’s generals improved human rights and eased curbs on the opposition, he said.
“If the government wishes to promote a genuine process of political transition, fundamental human rights requirements have to be fulfilled,” Pinheiro said.
A constitution-drafting National Convention, which opened in May with most of its 1,088 delegates handpicked by the junta, is expected to reconvene in November.
Critics say the process has no credibility without Suu Kyi and the NLD, which refused to take part while she remained under house arrest.