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The following is the paper presented by Dr. Thaung Htun, United Nations
Service Office, National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, at the
Briefing on Human Rights in Burma, at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva.


Dr. Thaung Htun
United Nations Service Office, National Coalition Government of the Union of
April 8, 1997

Thank you very much for this opportunity to briefly discuss the issue of
human rights in Burma and its evolution at the United Nations.

The situation of human rights in Burma has been considered at each session
of the UN Commission on Human Rights since 1989.  The Commission first
appointed two independent experts, Ms. Sadago Ogata in 1990 and then
Professor Yozo Yokota in 1991 to investigate the situation of human rights
in Burma under the 1503 confidential procedure.  In 1992, the Commission
took a further step and decided to review the situation of human rights in
Burma under the 1235 public procedure by appointing Professor Yozo Yokota as
Special Rapporteur. Since 1992, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur has
been extended at each session of the Commission for another year.  After
Professor Yokota resigned last year, Judge Rajsmoor Lallah from Mauritius
was appointed by the Commission as the new Special Rapporter on Burma.  His
recent report to the Commission (E/CN.4/1997/64) is brilliant.  It astutely
concludes that the lack of rights pertaining to democratic governance is the
root cause of human rights violations in Burma. 

The situation of human rights in Burma has also been considered at the 3rd
Committee of the United Nations General Assembly since 1990.  Sweden usually
takes the leading role in the process of drafting the resolution on Burma in
New York at the General Assembly. 

Although these resolutions are not legally binding, they do have powerful
moral authority. Consensus adoption of the resolutions adds to the moral
obligation of all UN members to fully cooperate with the UN in
implementating the resolutions.

The question arises about how we can protect human rights in Burma, where
the traditional values of love, compassion and non-violence have little
impact on the day-to-day conduct of the military, which apparently lacks any
understanding or respect for the very idea of human rights?

One way to protect human rights is to expose the Burmese military regime to
international scrutiny and criticism by means of public reports, speeches
and resolutions.  The annual sessions of the UN General Assembly and the UN
Commission on Human Rights are periods of humiliation for the Burmese
military regime, which finds itself publicly dissected and condemned.  This
damages SLORC both politically and economically.

Politically, this scrutiny damages the image of legitimacy the military
seeks to project within the country.  The military usually claims legitimacy
by pointing to Burma's membership at the UN (even though UN membership
belongs to States, not to governments).  Fortunately, the Burmese people get
a chance to hear the criticism at the UN in Geneva and New York by listening
to the British Broadcasting Corporation (the BBC), the Voice of America
(VOA) and the Democratic Voice of Burma.  In this way, ever stronger
condemnation of SLORC's human rights record in UN reports and resolutions
and UN demands that political power be transferred to the elected
representatives of the 1990 general elections threatens SLORC's status and
thus its internal political authority.

Economically, the UN condemnation of SLORC is one of the main reasons why
the de facto sanctions imposed after the bloodbath of 1988 have not been
lifted.  Since 1988, there have been no World Bank or IMF loans, UN
Development Programme assistance has been reduced to small humanitarian
programs, and bilateral assistance from donor countries has been frozen
except for a few small debt-relief loans from Japan.  Even though some
private investors have been rushing into Burma to exploit the natural
resources of the country, the military regime is in desperate need of
international assistance to improve the very backward infrastructure and
accommodate new investments.

This year, the Netherlands, as the President of the European Union, has led
the drafting of the Burma resolution at the Commission.  We have proposed
that the resolution be based on last year's resoluion at the Commission and
the more recent resolution at the General Assembly as well as that it add
new elements to cover human rights violations in Burma over the past year.
Apart from the massive arrests of members of the National League for
Democracy (the NLD), arrests of student activists and peasants in connection
with demonstrations, restrictions placed on the activities of the NLD and
its members, the use of economic intimidation, threats and reprisals to
coerce the resignation of representatives-elect, cases of death in custody,
attacks on refugee camps, new military offensives, continued mass forced
relocation campaigns, and a new influx of refugees to Thailand resulting
from the terrorizing campaign of the SLORC's army against the civilian
population, a sham national convention and order 5/96, and the failure to
have a political dialogue, we have also proposed that the resolution stress
the regime's lack of cooperation with the UN.  In particular, we would like
to stress the failure of SLORC to carry out its commitment to cooperate with
the General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights in conformity with
Articles 55 and 56 of the Charter of the United Nations and its pledge "to
promote . . . human rights and fundamental freedoms".  Thank you.
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