Fri 29 Oct 2004
Filed under: International,News
National reconciliation and a shift to democracy in Myanmar are impossible unless the military government frees all political prisoners and lifts its restrictions on political leaders and parties, a U.N. human rights investigator said on Thursday.
While world attention is riveted on the recent ouster of Myanmar’s prime minister, “let us be reminded of the broader picture of the human rights situation in the whole country, which shows no improvement,” rights expert Paulo Sergio Pinheiro told a General Assembly committee.
The government’s openness to political change was thrown into question earlier this month when Prime Minister Khin Nyunt, who had struggled since his appointment last year to implement a promised “road map to democracy,” was put under house arrest and replaced by Lt. Gen. Soe Win, a
Pinheiro, a Brazilian who has visited Myanmar six times in his four years on the job but has not been allowed in this year, said he intended to pursue his work “with or without access to the country.”
But Myanmar envoy Kyaw Win said Pinheiro’s current request to visit was “under consideration” even though past U.N. resolutions criticizing his country’s rights record had been “unbalanced, biased, politically motivated and based on unfounded and unproven allegations.”
The government also intended to reconvene a national convention that had begun drawing up a new constitution for the country, “despite the recent change of the prime minister,” Win added, without saying when.
The convention was adjourned indefinitely in July. The United Nations has previously complained that government plans for democracy will fail unless opposition parties such as Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party are part of the process.
Allowing political parties and their leaders including Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest since May 2003, to freely operate would greatly help the democracy process, he added.
Over 1,300 political prisoners remain in prison, some of them held even after their sentences have expired, and “the situation with regard to the exercise of fundamental human rights and freedoms in Myanmar has not substantially changed and may have even worsened,” Pinheiro told the
The military has ruled the former Burma since 1962 and refused to hand over power to Suu Kyi after her National League for Democracy party won a 1990 election.