Mon 13 Aug 2012
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
The chairman of Myanmar National Human Rights Commission last week refused to back the proposed formation of a “truth commission” or an investigation into alleged abuses in Rakhine State.
The truth commission, along with an investigation into the recent conflict in Rakhine State, was suggested by United Nations special rapporteur for human rights, Tomas Ojea Quintana, at a press conference before he left the country on August 4.
But human rights commission chairman U Win Mra told The Myanmar Times the investigation of alleged human rights violations in Rakhine State could potentially lead to more violence.
“I cannot say in detail because I have not seen Mr Quintana’s statement from the press conference [but] re-investigation is uncertain at this point because [Rakhine State] has just reached a stable and tranquil condition. We don’t want to instigate problems by reinvestigating the past,” he said on August 8.
“Truth commissions are established by new governments in countries that have transformed after violence, unrest and human rights abuses so they can be rediscovered and revealed. That is why it is a different condition here: the transition in Myanmar was peacefully attained by the election.”
Mr Quintana said an independent and credible investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Rakhine State was needed as “a matter of urgency”.
He urged the establishment of a truth commission to address grievances from decades of human rights violations, saying this was crucial for the transition to democracy and national reconciliation.
He said the creation of such a commission is a difficult but necessary task.
“There should be a process of consultation with all relevant stakeholders, including victims of human rights violations, in order to get their advice and views on how this truth commission should be shaped. Lessons should be learned for other countries that have experience in these processes,” he said.
The special rapporteur said he was concerned at allegations of human rights violations committed while restoring law and order in Rakhine State.
He said the allegations included “the excessive use of force by security and police personnel, arbitrary arrest and detention, killings, the denial of due process guarantees and the use of torture in places of detention”.
“While I am in no position to be able to verify these allegations at this point in time, they are of grave concern. It is therefore of fundamental importance to clearly establish what has happened in Rakhine State and to ensure accountability.
“The situation will only further deteriorate unless brave steps are taken by the government.”
At the press conference in Yangon, Mr Quintana also said he believed it was necessary to review the 1982 Citizenship Act to remove systematic discrimination against the Rohingya community, including the denial of citizenship or legal status to Rohingyas, restrictions on their freedom of movement and marriage restrictions, and bring the law into line with international human rights standards.
Mr Quintana’s statement generated a significant degree of criticism, with an op-ed in The Yangon Times arguing in its August 7 edition that the special rapporteur’s views on the citizenship law were contrary to those of Myanmar’s 60 million inhabitants. “I believe the special rapporteur is aware that the citizenship law is drawn in every country according to the historical and geographical situation to protect the well-being of its own people,” the un-bylined op-ed said.
Mr Quintana’s comments came just days after Minister for Foreign Affairs U Wunna Maung Lwin rejected accusations of human rights abuses in Rakhine State.
“Myanmar strongly rejects the accusations made by some quarters that abuses and excessive use of force were made by authorities in dealing with the situation,” he said at a press conference in Yangon on August 1.
“Myanmar totally rejects the attempts by some quarters to politicise and internationalise this situation as a religious issue.”
Meanwhile, the state-run New Light of Myanmar quoted Minister for Home Affairs Lieutenant General Ko Ko as telling the Amyotha Hluttaw on August 7 that the authorities were “tightening” restrictions on “Bengalis” in Rakhine State, as well as increasing the police presence in the region.
“Border Regions Immigration Inspection Command Headquarters is tightening the regulations in order to handle travelling, birth, death, immigration, migration, marriage, constructing of new religious buildings, repairing and land ownership and right to construct building of Bengalis under the law,” he said.
“Plans are under way to add a further 30 police stations to the original 75 police stations of the Rakhine State Police Force and to upgrade eight police stations.