"... As Myanmar looks ahead to the upcoming elections in November – a milestone in the country’s transition to democracy – the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, urged the Government to reconsider its fear and opposition to critical and independent voices.
“Civil society actors, journalists and ordinary citizens exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association are not threats, but should be seen as partners in contributing to a robust democracy,” Ms. Lee stressed at the end of her five-day official visit* to the country.
During her visit, the human rights expert noted the continuing arrests and convictions of civil society actors including students, political activists, workers, union leaders, farmers, community organisers and journalists, and met with several of these individuals detained in Insein and Tharawaddy prisons. “Many emphasized that they were not against the Government and simply wanted to bring about positive changes in the country,” she said.
Given their vital role in any democratic society, prior to, during and after elections, the expert called for the immediate release of all such political prisoners, including those detained in connection with the Letpadan incident on 10 March 2015, during a police operation against student demonstrators and their supporters..."
"...Let me conclude by reaffirming my commitment to engage constructively and openly with the Government and all other stakeholders. While I am fully aware of the complexities of the situation in Myanmar and the reform process, I cannot hold Myanmar to a lower standard. I must continue to objectively assess the situation against the country’s own international human rights obligations.
Ahead of the elections, one key recommendation I can make to the Government of Myanmar is to reconsider its fear and opposition to critical and independent voices. Civil society actors, journalists and ordinary citizens exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association are not threats; instead they are the voice of different communities and interests in Myanmar – in all its wonderful and rich diversity – and they play a vital role in contributing to and sustaining a robust democracy, and in advocating for the promotion and protection of human rights. They should be seen as partners and their actions and voices should not be restricted, but rather heard, facilitated and supported.
I stand with you, the people of Myanmar, as you chart your way forward in this historic moment..."
"...Based on all the information I have gathered, I feel assured that in some areas, the Government is
continuing to progress in its reform programme. I am pleased to see that programmes to improve
education, health care and livelihood are underway, and commend the Government on its proposals
for greater community consultation on land related projects. I was heartened by the release of U
Kyaw Hla Aung released since my last visit. However, in some areas I have not observed progress
since my last visit. In particular, land development projects frequently suffer from poor information
and a lack of adequate consultation with affected communities. Consequential disputes have been
met with harsh crackdowns. I have also observed areas where reforms fail to live up to expectations
due to inadequate capacity or simply disregard, at the local level of implementation. In the area of
freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, positive gains risk being lost. Indeed, the possible
signs of backtracking I noted in my first report have gained momentum in this area. I urge the
Government to address these issues as a priority. I will elaborate this in my report to be submitted to
the Human Rights Council in March..."
Myanmar is undergoing an important transition and the sweeping and far-reaching reforms that we have seen in recent years have dramatically transformed the political, economic, social and human rights landscape. This was affirmed in my meetings with various Government officials in Nay Pyi Taw. In three years, Myanmar has come a long way since the establishment of the new Government. This must be recognized and applauded.
Yet, there are worrying signs of possible backtracking which if unchecked could undermine Myanmar’s efforts to become a responsible member of the international community that respects and protects human rights. As many have said, Myanmar therefore needs further encouragement and understanding in order to address these challenges and to continue on the path of reform. And I hope that my observations and recommendations will be taken in this light.....
Shrinking of democratic space...Prisoners of conscience...Development and economic, social and cultural rights......Legislative reform and the rule of law...Women’s rights and gender equality...Rakhine State...Kachin State...Mandalay...Conclusion
GENEVA (20 November 2012) – "The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation
in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, welcomed today the latest commitments from the Government of
Myanmar on human rights as significant steps forward in the ongoing reform process, and encouraged
the authorities to focus now on their prompt implementation.
These pledges announced by the Government on 18 November include the resumption of prison visits
for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the setting up of a mechanism to review
prisoner lists, addressing the situation in Rakhine State, and an invitation to the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights to establish a country office..."
"...We should all acknowledge and commend the Government of Myanmar for what has been achieved thus far, which I have previously stated has improved the country’s human rights situation. Yet, recent developments highlight that Myanmar continues to grapple with ongoing human rights concerns that could pose risks to the reform process..."
"The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, today highlighted the importance of keeping human rights on the agenda for Myanmar. This, he stressed, is particularly relevant in light of the ongoing violence in Rakhine State. The Special Rapporteur expressed concern that more lives have been lost in the violence and emphasised that the underlying causes of the tension and conflict between the Buddhist and Muslim communities in Rakhine State must be addressed as a priority...NEW YORK (25 October 2012) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, today highlighted the importance of keeping human rights on the agenda for Myanmar. This, he stressed, is particularly relevant in light of the ongoing violence in Rakhine State. The Special Rapporteur expressed concern that more lives have been lost in the violence and emphasised that the underlying causes of the tension and conflict between the Buddhist and Muslim communities in Rakhine State must be addressed as a priority..."
"...To conclude, as reforms deepen in Myanmar, my mandate can help to highlight the importance of placing human rights standards and principles at the very heart of this process. Take, for instance, the flood of foreign investment that is beginning to enter the country. Adopting a human rights-based approach ensures that the principles of participation, non-discrimination, transparency, accountability and the rule of law guide this process. With this guiding framework of human rights, investments will serve to create a more fair and just society, in which the human rights of the people of Myanmar are fulfilled. The time to firmly embed a human rights-based approach in economic and social development is now.
More generally, I believe that human rights should not fall off the agenda, and human rights concepts and principles need to be at the forefront of the entire reform process, driving it forward and keeping it focused on addressing the needs and aspirations of the people of Myanmar. It is my responsibility, as Special Rapporteur, to continue to emphasize this point..."
5 February 2012, Yangon International Airport, Myanmar...
"...To conclude, I have previously stated that the steps taken by the Government had the potential to bring about an improvement in the human rights situation in Myanmar and deepen its transition to democracy. My mission confirmed that a positive impact has been made; however serious challenges remain and must be addressed. There is also a risk of backtracking on the progress achieved thus far. Therefore, at this crucial moment in the country’s history, further and sustained action should be taken to bring about further change. Prior to its assumption of the Chairpersonship of ASEAN in 2014, I would encourage Myanmar to demonstrate concrete progress in improving its human rights situation. The international community should remain engaged and should support and assist the Government during this important time..."
By Tomas Ojea Quintana, 25 August 2011, Yangon International Airport, Myanmar.....
"I have just concluded my five-day mission to Myanmar - my fourth visit to the country since I was appointed in March 2008 and my first since February 2010. I would like to thank the Government of Myanmar for its invitation and hospitality, and for the cooperation and flexibility shown during my visit.
During the mission, I met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Home Affairs, the Minister of Defence, the Deputy Chief of Police, the Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, who also holds the position of the Minister of Labour, the Attorney-General, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Union Election Commission and with some of the Presidential Advisors. I also met with the Speakers and members of the Pyi Thu and Amyotha Hluttaws, including representatives of ethnic political parties, and had the privilege to observe the second regular session of the Pyi Thu Hluttaw..."