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/* Posted 22 Nov 6:00am 1995 by DRUNOO@xxxxxxxxxxxx(DR U NE OO) in igc:reg.burma */
/* -------------" HR Sub Committee Report on Burma "---------------- */

The  Human  Rights Sub-Committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign
Affairs, Defence and Trade (Australia) has published its concluding  report
on human rights situation in Burma. Following material is a reproduction of
conclusion  from the 167page-report. Those wishing to receive a copy may be
worthwhile contacting the Secretary of Human Rights Sub-Committee. I  would
post those materials as time permits. Regards, U Ne Oo.

The Parliament of the Commanwealth of Australia
Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
October 1995
Australian Government Publishing Service Canberra

       "We give express charge that in our marches through the
       country there be nothing compelled from the villages, nothing
       taken but paid for, none of the people upbraided or abused in
       disdainful language; for when lenity and cruelty play for a
       kingdom, the gentler gamester is the soonest winer.(William
       Shakespeare, King Henry V)"


1.  Reports  continue  to  be  made  of gross human rights abuses in Burma,
'consistently and on a wide scale."[1] The concessions which the Government
of Burma has made, and made only under great international pressure  -  the
abolition  of  military  tribunals, the release of some of the high profile
political  detainees  and  the  cessation  of  official  executions  -  are
important  but  since  they rely  on the will or the whim of the Government
there is no certainty that these abuses  will  not  occur  in  as  great  a
measure  at  any  time.  No  structural  changes have been made which might
assist in the long term protection  of  human  rights.  This  requires  the
perpetrators  of  abuses  to be brought to justice, the establishment of an
independent judiciary and a free press, a recognition of the  rights  of  a
democratic  opposition  and  the  subordination  of  the army to an elected
civilian government. There is no sign of any intention on the part  of  the
State  Law  and Order Restoration Council (SLORC)  that they will implement
democratic changes which would ensure this kind of accountability.

2. The gap between the statements made by various  representatives  of  the
Burmese  Government  and the actual conditions of life for ordinary Burmese
people appears to be very wide. For the most part, the worst conditions are
not matters that can be attributed to poverty or levels of  development  or
different,  Asian, values. They are often attributable to government policy
or  to  the  direct  actions  of  the  government  or  individual  military
commanders.  They  result  from a lack of accountability. Where there is no
domestic accountability then the only possibility  for  the  protection  of
people  who  are  abused  by  their government is through the international
system, flawed as it is.

3. This Committee reiterates the view it put in its last report on 'A Review
of Australia's Effort to Promote and Protect Human Rights', on the problems
that arises ofr states because  of  the  demands  by  minority  groups  for
self-determination  and  independence.  The  Committee  believes this issue
alone represents one of the major security issues facing the  world  today.
It is particularly pertinent to the countries of the region where there are
numerous  examples  of  pressure  being applied to central governments  for
self-determination. In 1994, the Committee argued:

   that governments cannot maintain national  cohesion  by  force  and  the
   continual  oppresssion  of  minorities. It supports the proposition that
   effective  and  successful  multi-racial/multi-ethnic  states  need   to
   express  their  diversity in institutions and political structures which
   genuinely accommodate the aspirations of their  minorities.  Failure  to
   make  that  accommodation,  and  worse,  the  abuse  and  oppression  of
   minorities,  gives  moral  force  to   claims   for   independence   and

The Committee looked in particular at the problems of the border regions of
Burma  where  war  has  been  endemic  for nearly forty years. The problems
associated with the border regions of Burma are complex  and  longstanding.
However  they  clearly  issustrate  the  interconnectednes of human rights,
political democracy, peace, security and development. The  current  Burmese
regime is a source of instability in the region. Its lack of accountability
and  legitimacy  allows  for  corruption and oppression; there is no forum,
independent of the  government,  to  bring  to  account,  consistently  and
impartially,  those  who  , through normal human venality, abuse, steal and
oppress their fellow citizens. There is no place  for  the  aspirations  of
minority  groups  who  have  a  well  founded suspicion of the power of the
majority to find expression. Corruption and voilence appear to  be  endemic
and,  so  long  as  they  exist, they encourage the evils of trafficking in
arms, drugs and people and the outflows of refugees. Burma's problems  then
spill  over into neighbouring countries and spreads from there to the wider

4. Therefore it is the the interests of the region and Australia that there
should be a solution to the problems Burma faces.  Despite  the  ceasefires
and  the acclaimed success of the military operations, the situation on the
borders continues to be fragile and precarious. For there to  be  a  secure
peace  there  must  be  apolitical  solution  to  the demands of the border
peoples.  This  will  necessitate   proper,   not   token   and   selected,
representation at the National Convention. Without proper representation at
the   Convention   there  can  be  no  lasting  accommodation  in  the  new
constitution  of  minority  rights  and  little  likelihood  that  such   a
constitution  will  find  long term acceptance, thereby providing the basis
for stability in the country.

5. On  the  question  of  political  rights,  thes  Committee  rejects  the
proposition that any of the actions for which political prisoners have been
detained  could be constructed as a threat to national security. In reality
it would appear that the laws are simply  used  against  people  exercising
their  legitimate  rights  to  free  speech,  free association and peaceful
political action - criticism of the actions of the SLORC, rightful  protest
about  the failure of the SLORC to respect the election victory of the NLD,
criticism of the dubious procedures of the  National  Convention  and  free
dialogue  and  cooperation  whth the Special Rapporteur as agreed to by the
Government. The laws are vague and at times amendments have  been  made  by
decree  and  punishments have been applied retrospectively. Procedures have
not been open and the Government has not produced  concrete  evicence  upon
which  judgements  have  been  made.  No  distinction  is  made between the
security of the  State  and  the  'security  of  the  SLORC'.  Consequently
procedures  have not been in acord with natural justice and the 'prevailing
laws' not in accord with the international obligations of Burma as a member
of the United Nations to observe Article 11, 19, 20 and 21 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights.

6. This committee deplores the deliberate  and  systematic  destruction  of
political  parties  under  the  guise  of  legal  process.  It deplores the
manipulation  of  the  National  Convention  in   order   to   produce   an
anti-democratic constitution which, if not modified, will entrench in power
a military regime which has usurped power and denied the will of the people
of Burma which was clearly expressed at a free and fair election.

7.  In  Burma,  there is a long history of authoritarian rule and isolation
from international contact and international  scrutiny.  Today,  since  the
SLORC  deprived  the elected government of power in 1990, most of the gross
human rights abuses committed by the Government result  from  that  act  of
illegality, the opposition it has engendered and the systematic attempts of
the  SLORC  to  destroy the National League for Democracy and any political
opposition to its rule. The Government lacks accountability;  its  rule  is
arbitrary;  it has dispensed with a rule of law and has resorted to rule by
decree. There has been little progress towards democracy.

8.  If  political  reform,  embodying  transparency,   accountability   and
participation,  is the vital ingredient in creating the conditions for real
economic  growth,  a  sound  basis  for  investment  in  the  country   and
guaranteed,  productive use of aid, then political reform must be a central
objective of Australia's  foreign  policy  towards  Burma.  The  benchmarks
encompass  this  principle.  The  Committee  believes  that  the benchmarks
represent useful guides towards democratic development. Obviously it is not
intended that all benchmarks will be absolutely  acheved  before  there  is
some reestablishment of official contacts with Burma.

9.   The   Committee   believes  however  that  more  genuine  progress  in
establishing a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD and a  change  to
the  procedures  of the National Convention are an essential starting point
before any further concessions are made to the SLORC. In this regard it  is
important   that  Australia  continue  to  seek  the  support  of  regional
neighbours in urging change in Burma.

10. Therefore the Committee draws atttention to  recommendation  number  27
urging regional countries to use their good offices to press the Government
of Burma towards democratic change.

11. The latest statements from the SLORC that they do not need to negotiate
with  any one are not reassuring. They appear to reveal that the regime has
no commitment to democratic development in Burma. Such  hardline  attitudes
offer  little  scope  for  confidence  on  the  part  of  the international
community that there will be any change to the practices, outlined in  this
report, that have been so widely condemned. While such contempt is directed
at  the consensus resolutions of the United Nations, there can be no change
to the policies of major international institutions, whether  financial  or
political, to include Burma more fully.

12.  The  Committee hopes that the SLORC will take up the offer of Aung San
Suu Kyi for dialogue and so recognise the will of  the  Burmese  people  so
clearly expressed in 1990.

/* Endreport */