Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Regional stability and Burma’s human rights situation

(Mizzima) - The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, said last week that Burma’s lack of human rights is placing a heavy burden on regional neighbours who must deal with refugees.
UN special envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana, right, held talks with Tin Oo, center, and six other senior leaders of the opposition party, the National League for Democracy, in Rangoon last year. (Photo: UN)
Speaking from Malaysia, Quintana told that despite the Burmese government’s  promises to improve its record on human rights abuses, the situation in the country is still grave.

Southeast Asian countries that play host to Burmese refugees have an interest in encouraging the military government to improve its human rights situation, he said.

In March, Quintana submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Council stating that Burma’s government exercised a  pattern of “gross and systematic” human rights abuses that indicate they have become state policy. The report led to calls to create a UN commission of Inquiry (CoI) to investigate alleged war crimes and human rights violations in Burma.

So far, several international governments have come out in support of a CoI, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. So far, no country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has spoken in favour of a CoI.

Aung Myo Min, the director of the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB) based in Thailand, told Mizzima, ‘The situation of refugees is no longer solely a matter of internal affairs, but an international one that concerns the entire region.’

He said Asean countries should support a CoI because it is in their interests ‘to have a peaceful and healthy Asean region’, and a CoI is ‘a way to solve the root cause of the refugee influx.’

Thailand had suffered the greatest burden of Burmese refugees, but  there is also a growing number of Burmese who are seeking refuge in Malaysia and Indonesia, he said.

Aung Myo Min said Asean’s recent initiative in the Thailand-Cambodia border dispute, sets a good example.

‘They [Asean] should take a more active role in approaching the problem of refugees which reflects the situation of human rights abuses in Burma,’ he said.