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His Excellency U Mya Than,
Leader of the Myanmar Observer Delegation
to the sixtieth session
of the Commission on Human Rights
on the oral presentation by Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro
under agenda item 9
Geneva, 26 March 2004
I am delighted to see you, a close friend and distinguished diplomat from a friendly country from Asia and the Pacific, presiding over the sixtieth session of the Commission on Human Rights. It is indeed a great honour for you and for your country to assume the chairmanship, since this is the first time in history that Australia is chairing the Commission on Human Rights. I should like to extend our warmest congratulations to you for this great honour and onerous responsibility, conferred upon you. I pledge the fullest cooperation of my delegation. I also wish to offer our warmest felicitations to the other Members of the Bureau.
Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro has just delivered his oral presentation. He had already submitted his regular report, contained in E/CN.4/2004/33.
At the previous sessions of the Commission on Human Rights, I commended Professor Pinheiro for the quality, balance and professionalism that generally characterized his previous reports to the Commission. We hope that he will be able to maintain the high standards of his previous reports to the Commission. I am afraid that I have noticed some lapses and slips in his regular report contained in E/CN.4/2004/33.
I am relieved to note that his oral presentation, just delivered by Professor Pinheiro proved to be more forward-looking and positive than his regular report.
I believe that Professor Pinheiro's approach is still a constructive approach. Despite the limitations I have just mentioned, there are many positive developments, reflected in his two reports before the Commission, particularly in his oral presentation.
In his regular report, Professor Pinheiro has made the following positive comments and observations:
"The Special Rapporteur received full cooperation from the Government in
facilitating this mission, for which he expresses once again his appreciation. He was
able to carry out his programme in its entirety and enjoyed complete freedom of movement
and access to private persons and others of interest."
"The Special Rapporteur welcomes the release from nearly six months of house arrest of five senior members of NLD; Hla Pe, Nyunt Wai, Than Tun and Soe Myint were released on 28 November and Lun Tin on 29 November."
"The Government of Myanmar has started preparations for the reconvening of the National Convention that has been adjourned since 1996. Reviving the National Convention is the first step under the seven-point road map for national reconciliation and democratic transition presented by the new Prime Minister, General Khin Nyunt, on 30 August 2003."
"After his mission, the Special Rapporteur took note that on 16 December 2003 the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Myanmar, at a meeting in Bangkok, stated that SPDC had set a time frame for the road map and that some steps of the road map, including the National Convention to draft a new constitution, would be implemented in 2004."
"He is pleased to report that the political prisoners interviewed in Insein prison during his last mission were not subjected to harassment, threats or punishment as a result of being interviewed by him or his team in March 2003."
"The Special Rapporteur welcomes the slight improvements in the conditions of detention of convicted political prisoners in insein prison since his visit in March 2003. The prisoners whom he interviewed are now able to receive journals and newspapers, in addition to religious books. Medicines and health care continue to be provided regularly to the elderly prisoners, although at times the quantity of medicines is reportedly insufficient."
"The Special Rapporteur has followed the situation of HIV/AIDS in his several reports. During his last mission he visited the recently inaugurated exhibition on HIV/AIDS to observe the efforts of the different partners of the development assistance community in addressing the social consequences of HIV/AIDS. He was impressed by the Government's public acknowledgement of the problem and its cooperation with the development assistance community to prevent and fight HIV/AIDS. He was also impressed by the presence of many school children at the exhibition and the involvement of monks in raising awareness about HIV/AIDS."
"The Special Rapporteur is pleased to report that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has allocated US$ 98.5 million to Myanmar over a period of five years. The Special Rapporteur strongly encourages that the Government takes this opportunity to strengthen its cooperation with UNCT."
"The Special Rapporteur was impressed by the work of the United Nations community and its partners in Myanmar, including the cooperation between the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Myanmar Human Rights Committee to conduct human rights training for government officials. This is the first such cooperation between the United Nations and the Myanmar authorities. The Special Rapporteur also welcomes the dialogue between UNHCR and the Government on the issue of forced labour in Rakhine State. This cooperation has produced some localized policy change as well as a decline in forced labour between 2001 and 2003. Considering the progress in Rakhine State, for which full credit has not yet been given to the relevant authorities, the Special Rapporteur encourages the Government to replicate these successes in other parts of the country in cooperation with the United Nations system, including the International Labour Organization."
"The Special Rapporteur notes that SPDC has continued to cooperate with ICRC. The Government of Myanmar informed him that at the time of his last mission, ICRC had made 234 visits to prison facilities. He welcomes the agreement by SPDC to a proposal by ICRC, supported by the Special Rapporteur's mandate, to ensure its presence in several states and divisions affected by conflict."
Furthermore, Professor Pinheiro has highligted a number of very important positive developments in his oral presentation a few moments ago.
He welcomed the positive cooperation of the Myanmar authorities with the International Committee of the Red Cross in the ethnic minority areas.
He also welcomed the recent agreement of the authorities to allow the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) access to border areas in eastern part of the country, namely, Karen and Mon States and Tenasserim Division.
He observed that among other related developments, the most notable is the resumption of peace talks between the Government and the
largest armed opposition group, the Karen National Union. Were human rights commitments to be built into an agreement, this process couid significantly improve not only the human rights situation in ethnic minority
but also the political climate throughout
He took note of the preliminary phase of the visit of the International Labour Organization to Myanmar.
Since his appointment as the Special Rapporteur, around 460 common prisoners had been released on humanitarian grounds, mostly pregnant women or mothers with young children which he had welcomed. About 700 more prisoners had also been released.
May I also offer a few comments in order to rectify some factual errors and inaccuracies in Professor Pinheiro's ora! presentation and report.
His treatment of the 30 May incident in his regular report is out of proportion. In fact, this episode has been already overtaken by subsequent positive developments.
The 30 May incident was unfortunate. This incident could have been, and should have been avoided.
This could have been avoided if Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had acted in good faith and had cooperated with the authorities. There was an understanding between the Government and the NLD that NLD should not engage in any activity that could disrupt the existing peace and stability in the country and that the NLD would inform the Government with regard to their planned trips in advance. On that particular day, the Government security officials advised the NLD members that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD members should not venture on a trip to the area near Depeyin, as there was no police or military presence and that their safety could not be assured. Against this advice, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD members went to that particular area in a long motorcade, and ploughed through the crowd in a location near Depeyin. Hence, this unfortunate incident on 30 May.
There was no premeditation on the part of the Government. It was evident that there was premeditation on the part of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as she had made a second trip to the Shwebo region after her visit to the same area a few days earlier.
This incident had been played up and exaggerated by some quarters as well as allegations from other Western sources were incorrect and inaccurate.
Later on, some sources alleged that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi went on a hunger strike. The Myanmar authorities clarified that, that allegation was unfounded.
\The reality was that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was not on a hunger strike during that period. This has proven the Myanmar authorities' clarification to be correct, and has given the lie to the aforementioned allegation.
With regard to the instances of alleged religious intolerance in the regular report of the Special Rapporteur, as well as in the interventions by some representatives in the Commission, allow me to set the record straight.
As a matter of fact, one of the hallmarks of the Myanmar culture is religious tolerance. In this context, it is best to quote Madam Sadako Ogata, Independent Expert of the Commission on Human Rights.
"There is total absence of
discrimination based on religion. From the highest ranks of Government Service through the ranks of
public service, the question of religion does not exist. The
In Myanmar, Christian, Muslim and Hindu religious holidays and festivities are also officially recognized and observed. Their religious activities have been consistently supported and promoted by the Government.
Professor Pinheiro, in his oral report, pointed out that two persons were sentenced by the Northern District Court in Yangon for their alleged contacts with and possession of documents relating to the ILO.
This case has been clarified by the Myanmar delegation in a satisfactory manner at the current 289th session of the ILO Governing Body. Chairman Ambassador Eui-yong Chung's summing up at the meeting of the Governing Body yesterday has testified to the positive outcome of the discussions in the ILO forum.
I should like to stress that, under no circumstances, contacts and cooperation by a citizen with the ILO, the United Nations and other international organizations constitute a criminal offence under the existing Myanmar law in our country. On the contrary, we are all for cooperation with the ILO, the United Nations, the Commission on Human Rights and other international organizations.
This particular case is under review by the higher judiciary bodies. The review will be done expeditiously and it will be done sooner rather than later.
Allow me to quote here a Myanmar saying: "Even the wisest man may have lapses of his discretion". Professor Pinheiro is a very wise and highly respected Special Rapporteur and an outstanding expert on human rights. The lapses and slips that \ mentioned earlier on appear to be the lapses of a very wise man. I, therefore, hope that our wise man will regain and retain his wisdom and discretion once again in future.
I hope that the positive developments, which I have outlined above and which have indeed been highlighted by Professor Pinheiro in his reports, will be adequately reflected, as they should be, in the draft resolution on Myanmar this year.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.