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Suu Kyi to UN Commission on HR

1.30pm. Geneva, Tuesday 8 April 1997 
The leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma and
Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, smuggled out an
address to the 53rd session of the UN Convention on Human
*1. I would like start by asking your views on the increasing
restrictions placed on you and your MPs.
When I talk of human rights violations in Burma, I think not
about -- well, we can no longer think in terms of which rights
are being violated, but in terms of  which rights are not
being violated.  I think I can say that all our rights are
being violated.  
And the restrictions placed on members of the NLD and
supporters of the NLD are really excessive.  Its not just that
we are prevented from doing our political work; the families
of supporters are subjected to a lot of economic pressure. 
There's interference with their economic activities and even
with educational activities.  
There are those who have been threatened that if their parents
don't tow the line they will lose their jobs, or that they
will not be allowed to take certain examinations. Now whether
the threats will be carried out I don't know.  
Threats have been made and in some cases people have been
penalised because of their connections to members of the NLD,
supporters of the NLD.  
Now at the moment a lot of our members of parliament have been
forced to resign. They have been forced to resign through
pressure on their families. Some have refused to resign.  
One of our members of parliament has been made to leave his
state home apartment where he had lived for years, because he
refused to resign from the NLD.  
And there are at the moment a number of cases pending, a
number of trumped-up cases against members of parliament from
the NLD.  
Now the latest case which I think was of considerable interest
because of his connections to General Khin Nyunt was that of
Doctor Than Nyein who was arrested on the grounds that he had
treated patients in his consultation room before the license
had been issued properly. He was released, I understand,
yesterday and only fined a thousand kyats.  Now this of 
course is very unusual.  I've not heard of members of the NLD
who ever got away without some sort of prison sentence.  I
don't know whether Doctor Than Nyein has got away with it
because so many people have been speculating on why he was
There were those who said that his arrest indicated that Khin
Nyunt's grip on power was slipping.  And perhaps because of
these comments the authorities felt that it would be politic
to let him off lightly. But if he's let off lightly then
others in a similar situation should be let off lightly too.
There's a case of another NLD doctor who was, I think, charged
with culpable homicide, because a patient who was dying in any
case, and whom he treated with an injection to enable the
patient to reach the hospital, died on the way to hospital.  I 
understand that they have now changed the charge because that
wouldn't stick.  
But when they performed the autopsy they found that the
patient hardly had any lungs left. Almost all the whole of
his lungs had been eaten away by tuberculosis.  So they could
only conclude that he was going to die anyway. 
But I understand that now they are trying to change the charge
and make it one similar to that with which they charged Doctor
Than Nyein, giving treatment in a consultation room without a
proper licence. 
Now most doctors in Burma don't have licences for their
consultation rooms. They of course, they have proper medical
certificates which give them the right to practice.  But the
majority of doctors don't bother about applying for a
consultation room license simply because the authorities don't
bother to issue the license even if you apply for one.
So they use the rules and regulations, they use the law as
they like in order to restrict the NLD, in order to stop
people from working effectively for the democracy movement.
My own road, the road to my house, has been blocked off now
for three months. It started -- the first time they blocked it
was in September, but then that was on and off. They would
open it occasionally, then they would block it off again. But
it's been blocked off completely since the 3rd of December. 
So that makes it three months now, about three months tomorrow
And this of course is meant to stop us from carrying on our
NLD activities in my home.  And every time people come to see
me they have to get permission from the authorities. And when
Burmese people come to see me they are asked for their
national registration certificate.  And sometimes they are
kept waiting at the road-block for a long time.  And as for
people from abroad, especially journalists, sometimes they are
just not allowed in at all.  
Although the people at the barricades were informed that so
and so would be coming, if they feel that they don't want to
let a certain person through they don't let that person
through.  They have done this to journalists and to diplomats
as well. So this is again a form of harassment, a way of
trying to restrict the activities of the National League for
I would like to make the point that the NLD is not just a
political party. It represents a whole democratic movement in
Burma, because all the other parties working for democracy
have been effectively crushed.  
There are of course some ethnic nationalities' parties, but
they are rather small, and they don't operate on a national
basis; they only operate in their own areas.  Well, which
leaves the NLD as the only political party that operates
throughout the country, and that represents  the movement for
democracy.  So restricting the NLD is tantamount to crushing
I would like to remind the international community of the fact
that the General Assembly resolution calls for an early
restoration of democracy to Burma, in line with the wishes of
the people as expressed through the 1990 elections.  Now that
is a very good resolution, but it needs to be implemented.  
That resolution also calls for the full and free participation
of  the Burmese people in the political process of the
country.  Again that needs to be implemented. 
Our political rights are getting fewer and fewer by the day. 
There are more restrictions, more repression,  the authorities
seem determined to crush any kind of political movement. 
They have, as I am sure many of you will have heard, they have
built up a so-called social welfare organisation called the
Union Solidarity and Development Association, the USDA, which
they are using occasionally as a political arm, and 
occasionally as just a gang of thugs, to harass and intimidate
those who are working for democracy.  
In November it was members of the USDA who attacked the cars
in which U Kyi Maung and U Tin Oo and I were traveling.  So I
have no inhibitions in saying that the USDA more than
occasionally performs the work of mere thugs. This is not the
way in which a responsible government should behave. A
responsible government does not build up a gang of hooligans
to attack those whom it wishes to crush politically.  
Ours is a non-violent political movement. But however non-
violent it may be, a political movement should be allowed to
demonstrate its opposition to certain government policies, if
it thinks that it is right to do so.  And there are many
policies of the government which we are obliged to oppose
because these policies are aimed at crushing the movement for
Because we are obliged to speak up against such government
policies as are unjust and repressive, we should not be
treated like criminals.  Our people are treated worse than
criminals, because the families of criminals are not
penalised. If a man has committed a crime,  whether it's
murder, or robbery, or assault, he is punished.  His family,
his family members are not punished.  But in our case,
members, family members of the National League for Democracy,
families of members of the National League for Democracy are
heavily penalised.  Often very heavily penalised.  
So the present situation is such that we need maximum
attention on what is happening to the National League for
Democracy; how this government is treating members of  the
National League for Democracy.  Because that is an indication
of the degree to which the authorities are prepared to go to
prevent democracy from taking root in Burma.  
And therefore that is in direct opposition to the spirit, as
well as the terms, of the General Assembly Resolution. 
*2. Can you tell me your views on the religious unrest that's
been happening recently? 
As I understand it, the unrest in Mandalay began because of
the fact that there was some damage done to this very, very
famous and very, very revered image of the Buddha, the
Maha-myat-muni image.  And the monks were very angry about
this, and they thought that the authorities were in some way
responsible for the -- I think it was a crack -- which had
appeared in the image.  
And about the same time the problems with the Muslim community
started.  And there are those who speculate that this was
intended to distract attention from what had happened to the
Maha-myat-muni image.  I don't know how true this is, but I
can say that the present problems between the Muslim
communities and the Buddhist monks does not do our country any
good at All.  
And of course the authorities, as you can imagine,  would like
to blame the whole thing on the NLD. They try to blame
everything on the NLD.  According to the authorities, it's the
NLD who always decides what happens in the country.  If we are
so very powerful, we might as well take over power completely. 
The present situation seems to be under control. I think there
are probably certain places in Burma where there is a lot of
tension between the Muslims and the Buddhists.  But on the
whole I think the people are quite calm, and they do not want
trouble.  And I think that the community of Buddhist monks on
the whole also are calling for restraint and calm.  
The real source, the real reason behind this, is I think
social unrest.  When there is communal strife anywhere it is
due to social unrest.  Social unrest of course is related to
such factors as political dissatisfaction and economic
So we can't just isolate the problems between the Buddhist
monks and the Muslims and say, well there is trouble there --
there is trouble throughout the country.  It's just a symptom
of the general malaise that you will find in Burma today.  
I really hope that the situation will be resolved soon,
because we want Burma to be a country that is safe and secure
for all its citizens, whatever the religion. 
*3. What about the situation on the Thai/Burma border at the
moment, of refugees being pushed back in some cases?  Are you
aware of the situation there? 
Yes and we are very concerned about this.  We really want the
international community to help the refugees as far as
And we would like the Thai authorities to look on these
refugees with compassion and not to force them to return back
to their homes where there is no security. 
Again, of course, the reason why there are so many refugees is
because the cease-fire [negotiation] between the KNU and the
military government has broken down.  And this is another
indication of the unstable political situation of Burma today. 
SLORC has been claiming that it has achieved cease-fires, it
has been able to bring peace to the border.  Well obviously,
this is not so.  
Cease-fires do not mean peace, they do not mean long term
peace at all. Cease-fires simply mean that you stop shooting
at each other for a certain length of time.  You still keep
your guns at the ready.  Which means that you can start
shooting any time you think that it's no longer either wise or
possible to continue with the ceasefire.  
We are very concerned about the situation of our ethnic
nationalities.  Of course, people know about these refugees. 
But we understand that on this side of the border there are
many, many villages of Karens and other ethnic nationalities
where the people are subjected to a lot of persecution,
repression, forced porterage, torture, and I am told, even
summary execution.  
So the situation is not good.  With regard to the refugees, we
really hope that the UNHCR will be allowed to help them, and
that the international community will provide as much support
for them as possible.  
*4  .What is your assessment of the current situation of human
rights abuses in Burma. 
Bad!  As I said earlier, one does not think in terms of which
human rights have been violated.  One thinks in terms of which
human rights have not been violated.  And one sometimes comes
to the conclusion that are no rights which have not been
Forced labour is a daily business.  And children are made to
provide forced labour because often the parents can't take
time off to go and work on these forced labour projects.  The
economic situation is bad.  The standards of living of a lot
of people have fallen.  And there is a struggle in order to be
able to eat two full meals a day.  
So if the parents have to go and work on forced labour
projects where they are not paid, it means that the family can
not eat for the day.  Consequently, they send children out to
work on the project while the parents go out to earn money.  
And of course there are also children on construction sites.
Now that is not forced labour, but that again is due to
economic pressure.  In a number of families they cannot make
ends meet unless the children work as well.   
You can find this if you study the records of UNICEF with
regard to children in primary schools.  The dropout rate of
children in primary schools has been rising.  
And this is, I understand, primarily due to the poverty of the
families. Either they cannot afford to send the children to
school, because they cannot clothe them properly, or they
cannot give all these -- well, education is supposed to be
free but actually you are made to contribute to this event and
that event, and this bit of school equipment and that bit of
school furniture and so on.  
So because they cannot afford to pay these charges, or because
they need the children to help them earn more money for the
family, parents take their children away before they've
completed primary school, and the dropout rate is therefore
rising. So child rights in Burma is an issue which needs to be
addressed very urgently.  
*5. In terms of the current situation, how do you see the
international community's obligations at this time? 
The main obligation of the international community is to do
every thing it can to implement the terms of the General
Assembly resolution. As I said earlier, it is a good
resolution, but it shouldn't just remain on paper. It needs to
be implemented.  
And since it was passed unanimously, I think the international
community does have an obligation to try to implement its
terms; to take it seriously, not just to regard it as a 
piece of paper.  
I would like to call for a strong resolution on the human
rights situation in Burma.  As I said earlier, there are
hardly any human rights which have not been violated by this
military regime.  And we need strong action from the
international community to put an end to these constant
violations of basic human rights.  
We would like the human rights resolution to address very
particularly the question of political rights, as well as the
right of people to be free from such pressures as forced
labour, forced relocation.  And we would also like the
resolution to address the question of the refugees.  I think
these are the three main points that we would like addressed,
that political rights should be enjoyed by all of us and
particularly by members of the National League for Democracy. 
Not because this is my party but because, as I have already
said, it represents the movement for democracy in Burma.  And
therefore protecting the political rights of the National
League for Democracy is part of the process of helping to
implement the terms of the General Assembly resolution on
And we would really like the question of forced labour and
forced relocation to be addressed very seriously, because that
disrupts the lives of families, it causes ill health, it also
even causes death in some cases.  And of course, the refugee
The refugee problem ultimately is an off-shoot of the
political problem. If there were political stability in Burma,
if there were a democratic system that allowed people to
express their hopes, their fears, their aspirations, their
difficulties, their resentments, through a legal channel,
there would not be all this problem of refugees.  There would
not be this problem of insurgencies.  People take to arms
because they feel there is no other way in which they can
resolve their problems.  
If there were a system which allowed them to resolve their
problems politically rather than militarily, I think we
would find that peace will come back to Burma. And therefore
the refugee problem would disappear.  Not overnight, but it
will certainly disappear once there is the right kind of
political system and political atmosphere in the country.  
Which is why I put the political rights of the National League
for Democracy and others working for democracy in Burma as the
most important item on the agenda for the Human Rights
We would also like to make sure that the Special Rapporteur of
the United Nations Secretary General is allowed to come into
Burma to find out what is going on, to meet the political
opposition and to hear from them exactly how they are
subjected to persecution and repression.  
And we think that the idea of  having a group of people to
monitor the human rights situation in Burma from a suitable
location is an excellent one, and I hope that this will 
be taken up by the United Nations.