Commission on Human Rights: extract on Myanmar from the Summary Record of the 57th meeting

(agenda item 9) (continued) (E/CN.4/2004/L.34; draft decision concerning agenda sub‑item 9 (a))

            Draft resolution concerning the situation of human rights in Myanmar (E/CN.4/2004/L.34)

1.                  Ms. WHELAN (Ireland), introducing draft resolution E/CN.4/2004/L.24 on behalf of its sponsors, thanked the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar for his work to date and expressed the hope that he would be able to further investigate the major areas of concern identified in the draft resolution with the full cooperation of the Government of Myanmar.

2.                  The draft resolution welcomed recent positive developments in Myanmar such as the visits to the country by the Special Rapporteur and the Special Envoy of the Secretary‑General.  It also welcomed Myanmar’s continued cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Government’s agreement of May 2003 on the International Labour Organization (ILO) Plan of Action for the Elimination of Forced Labour Practices in Myanmar, but noted that conditions for implementation of the Plan did not exist for the time being.

3.                  The draft resolution expressed serious concern at the ongoing systematic violations of human rights in Myanmar, at the events of 30 May 2003 and the subsequent detention of the leadership of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi.  It further expressed grave concern at the violations of the rights of persons belonging to ethnic minorities, at the situation of a large number of internally displaced persons and at the flow of refugees to neighbouring countries.  It called on the Government to fulfil its obligations to restore the independence of the judiciary and due process of law, and to take further steps to reform the administration of justice. 

4.                  The draft resolution strongly urged the Government to end the systematic violations of human rights, to restore democracy and respect the results of the 1990 elections, and to release Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the NLD.

5.                  A number of revisions to the draft resolution had been agreed after consultations with interested delegations, including the delegation of Myanmar.  The following new paragraph had been inserted after the first preambular paragraph:

            Reaffirming that all Member States have an obligation to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms and the duty to fulfil the obligation they have undertaken under the various international instruments in the field”.

In the fourth preambular paragraph the words “Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) of 31 October 2000 on women, peace and security and” had been deleted.  In operative paragraph 1 (a) a reference to document E/CN.4/2004/30 had been inserted in parentheses after the reference to document A/58/325 and Add.1.  In paragraph 1 (g) the words “her efforts to fulfil her mandate” had been replaced by “his efforts to fulfil his mandate”.  The following new paragraph had been inserted after paragraph 1:

            Takes note of the efforts of the Government of Myanmar to meet the HIV/AIDS challenge and calls upon it to enhance its efforts in this regard and to support the effective implementation of the United Nations Joint Plan of Action, in cooperation with the relevant international agencies”.

6.                  She hoped that, as in previous years, the draft resolution would be adopted without a vote.

7.                  The CHAIRPERSON announced that there were two additional sponsors, who would be listed in the Commission’s report.

8.                  Mr. Hyuck CHOI (Republic of Korea) said that the Republic of Korea, as a sponsor of the draft resolution, reiterated its firm belief in the need to uphold human rights in the process of national reconciliation and transition to democracy in Myanmar.  While taking note of the Government’s commitment to implement the seven‑step road map, he stressed the importance of establishing a concrete timeframe for its implementation.  With regard to the National Convention to be convened on 17 May 2004 to draft a new constitution, the Republic of Korea believed that it was essential for all political parties and ethnic groups to participate in the process.  It offered its full support to the Government in its efforts to restore democracy and to promote and protect human rights.

9.                  Mr. WILLIAMSON (United States of America), noting that his delegation was a sponsor of the draft resolution, said that the United States continued to work to promote democracy and improve human rights in Burma and was unwavering in its support for the establishment of democracy there.  It deplored the unlawful imprisonment of Aung San Suu Kyi and Tin Oo following the attack on their convoy in May 2003 and called for their unconditional release from house arrest.

10.              He hoped that the recent reopening of NLD headquarters in Rangoon and the release of U Lwin and Aung Shwe would lead to further progress towards national reconciliation.  For a constitutional convention to be successful, however, the political opposition and ethnic groups must be involved in the preparations and the convention itself.  Aung San Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders must also be released so that they could participate fully in preparations for national reconciliation and democracy.  He called on the Government to develop a timetable for the establishment of democracy.

11.              The United States remained deeply troubled by the military’s abuse of ethnic minority civilians, including rape, torture, murder, forced relocation and confiscation of property.  The Government continued to restrict freedom of religion, promoting Buddhism over other religions and imposing restrictions on religious minorities, especially ethnic Rohingya Muslims and Chin, Kachin, Karen and Naga Christians.  The United States had designated Burma a “country of particular concern” in 2003 on account of its severe violations of religious freedom.

12.              The United States encouraged the international community, especially Asian countries, to increase their engagement with the Government on those issues and urged the Government to continue cooperating with the Commission’s special procedures.  It supported the call by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar for an investigation into the May 2003 attack at Depeyin and the human rights abuses against ethnic minorities.

13.              Mr. SOBASHIMA (Japan) said that his delegation supported the draft resolution.  Japan had been working closely with the international community to support the efforts of the Government of Myanmar to promote democratization, structural economic reforms and human rights.  It was important for the international community to send a balanced message to Myanmar by acknowledging substantial positive developments in addition to addressing existing problems.  The draft resolution should not isolate Myanmar but encourage it to make every effort to improve the current situation and advance the process of national reconciliation.  Japan was prepared to assist Myanmar in achieving those goals.

14.              Mr. WANG Min (China) said that Myanmar had taken a number of positive steps over the past year aimed at national reconciliation, human rights development and international cooperation.  The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar had recognized those efforts in his report (E/CN.4/2004/33).  He regretted, however, that the draft resolution did not fully and accurately reflect those positive developments.  China was not in favour of applying political pressure to the people and Government of Myanmar through the adoption of a country‑specific resolution.  As a friendly neighbour, China had been following developments in the country and understood its special difficulties.  It appreciated the Government’s efforts to promote and protect human rights and hoped that Myanmar would
soon enjoy political stability, national harmony and economic development.

15.              Mr. THAN (Observer for Myanmar) said that the draft resolution was far from being fair, constructive, balanced or forward‑looking.  Myanmar was at a critical juncture in its political evolution and the current positive developments had given rise to optimism.  The seven‑step road map announced by the Prime Minister was the key to the country’s political future, and the first step - the reconvening of the National Convention - would be taken the following month.  The road map had been welcomed by the countries attending the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in October 2003 and by other countries in the region, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar had referred to it as a positive development.  But neither the road map nor the reconvening of the National Convention had been mentioned in the draft resolution.  However, Myanmar’s full cooperation with the ILO, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), ICRC, the Special Envoy of the Secretary‑General and the Commission’s Special Rapporteur had been recognized.

16.              The sweeping allegations by some non‑governmental organizations (NGOs) about violence against women in Shan State and other states were entirely unfounded.  Women were held in high esteem in Myanmar society and were never subjected to any form of degrading treatment.  A milestone in the advancement of women had been the recent establishment of the Myanmar Women’s Affairs Federation, which had held its first conference a few weeks previously.  The recommendations adopted at the conference included measures to combat violence against women and trafficking in women and children.

17.              Despite the efforts by his delegation and those of friendly countries, the draft resolution left a great deal to be desired and his delegation rejected it.  Nevertheless, Myanmar would continue to cooperate with the Commission to the extent possible.

18.              The draft resolution, as orally revised, was adopted without a vote.

Draft decision concerning agenda sub‑item 9 (a)

19.              The CHAIRPERSON read out the following draft decision on agenda sub‑item 9 (a):

“At its 57th meeting on 21 April 2004, the Commission on Human Rights decided, without a vote, to retain on its agenda sub‑item 9 (a), entitled ‘Question of human rights in Cyprus’, of the item entitled ‘Question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world’ and to give it due priority at its sixty‑first session, it being understood that action required by previous resolutions of
the Commission on the subject would continue to remain operative, including the
request to the Secretary‑General to submit a report to the Commission regarding their implementation.”

20.              The draft decision was adopted without a vote.