Thu 30 Sep 2004
Filed under: International,News
September 29: United Nations: Myanmar on Wednesday defended its human rights record in the face of international pressure to release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but an exiled opposition member warned that abuses “continue unabated.”
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, meanwhile, urged countries to “redouble their individual and collective efforts” and provide more support for U.N. initiatives to move the military-ruled nation toward democracy.
Government minister U Tin Winn addressed the U.N. General Assembly’s ministerial meeting Wednesday, a day after a U.N. report criticized Myanmar’s military junta for holding more than 1,300 political detainees and showing no indication it will release Suu Kyi from house arrest.
“Allegations of human rights violations in Myanmar are aimed at discrediting the government for political purposes,” the minister said. He didn’t mention Suu Kyi or her movement in his speech.
The European Union has given Myanmar, a politically isolated country formerly known as Burma, until Oct. 8 to release Suu Kyi or face further sanctions. It already has imposed a travel ban on Myanmar’s military leaders and frozen their financial assets in Europe. The United States also has imposed sanctions on the junta.
Annan met with high-level representatives from 12 nations, the World Bank and the U.N. Development Program on Wednesday at the United Nations to discuss ways to move the process forward.
“He urges the Myanmar authorities to listen to advice given by friendly countries, in goodwill, and allow his special envoy to visit the country as soon as possible,” according to a statement from his spokesman’s office.
He also expressed concern about Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has spent many of the years since 1989 in detention for her nonviolent struggle for democracy.
“All of us would want to see her released,” Annan told reporters after the meeting.
Minister U Tin Winn said his government was preparing for a second round of a constitution-drafting convention after the initial closed-door discussions were adjourned in July.
“We are greatly encouraged by the results of the first session,” he said.
The convention, billed by the junta as a first step toward restoring democracy, began on May 17 but was boycotted by Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy. It was criticized by human rights groups and some Western governments as unrepresentative.
Thaung Htun of the self-styled exiled National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma said the minister’s speech failed to address a “deteriorating” human rights situation.
“It was just a defensive statement on the regime’s own political agendas and the total denial to the appalling human rights situation, including the use of rape as a weapon against the ethnic nationalities,” Htun said at a news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York.
“Forced relocations, forced labor, rapes, arbitrary killings and
confiscation of land and properties continue unabated,” he said.
Prime Minister Gen. Khin Nyunt last year announced a seven-point plan that was supposed to lead to new elections, with the convention the first point. He set no deadlines.
Suu Kyi has been detained most recently since May 2003, when the military cracked down on her party after a violent clash between her followers and government supporters. The NLD won a landslide victory in a 1990 general election but was not allowed to take power by the junta, which seized
control in 1988 after brutally suppressing mass pro-democracy protests.