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The BurmaNet News, April 13, 1997
- Subject: The BurmaNet News, April 13, 1997
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Sat, 12 Apr 1997 21:24:00
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"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"
The BurmaNet News: April 13, 1997
SPECIAL EDITION- UN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR TO COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
SLORC RESPONSE TO SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR
SLORC ATTACKS KNU AT COMMISSION
UN HUMAN RIGHTS BRIEFING - DAVID TAW'S PAPER
SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR TO COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
April 9, 1997
STATEMENT MADE BY JUDGE RAJSOOMER LALLAH SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR OF THE
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN MYANMAR TO
THE FIFTY-THIRD SESSION OF THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
9 APRIL 1997
In June 1996, I was appointed by your predecessor, Ambassador Saboia,
as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. This
position was created in 1992 by this Commission in accordance with
resolution 1992/58. The mandate required me to establish direct contact with
the Government and people of Myanmar, with a view to submitting
reports to the General Assembly and the Commission. That mandate has since
been periodically renewed. Mr. Yozo Yokota preceded me in this task. I wish
to pay tribute to the competence with which he discharged his mandate. I
derived much assistance from his work.
On assuming my mandate, I tried to identify the priority concerns of
the international community with regard to the situation of human rights in
Myanmar. These concerns are referred to in the resolutions which the various
competent organs of the United Nations have adopted over the past six years
but more particularly in the General Assembly resolution 51/117 and
Commission resolution 1996/80, which were the most recently adopted. These
concerns may be summarized as follows:
a. the electoral process initiated in Myanmar by the general
elections of 27 May 1990 has yet to reach its conclusion and the Government
still has not implemented its commitments to take All necessary steps
towards the establishment of a democratic order in the light of those
b. many political leaders, in particular elected representatives,
remain deprived of their liberty;
c. violations of human rights remain extremely serious, including, in
particular, the practice of torture, summary and arbitrary executions,
forced labor, including forced portering for the military, abuse of women,
politically motivated arrests and detention, forced displacement, serious
restrictions on the freedoms of expression and association, and the
imposition of oppressive measures directed, in particular, at ethnic and
religious minority groups;
d. the continuing fighting with ethnic and other political groups,
despite the conclusion of cease-fire agreements, together with the
continuing violations of human rights has resulted in flows of refugees to
In October 1996, I submitted an interim report to the General-Assembly
commenting upon the institutional framework of Myanmar and its adverse
impact on rights to personal security and due process of law, the freedoms
of opinion, expression and movement and the requirement that the will of
the people be the basis of authority in the State. Two months ago, I
submitted my report to your Commission. I have included more specific
information relating mainly to the situation in the border areas between
Myanmar and Thailand. This most recent information has come to me directly
through my visit to Thailand. There I received testimonies from among the
thousands of newly displaced persons who fled Myanmar in the
summer of 1996. The testimony corroborated earlier reports I had received.
While both reports are at the disposal of All delegations, I wish to draw
attention to certain specific issues.
Since my appointment in June 1996 and, despite the requests expressed
in the resolutions of the General Assembly and this Commission that I have
direct access to the Government and people of Myanmar, I have yet to be
allowed by the Government of Myanmar to see the situation on the ground.
Following my appointment, I have written on 3 separate occasions to the
Government of Myanmar seeking their cooperation and requesting their
authorization to visit the country in the discharge of my mandate so as to
reflect the situation in Myanmar as comprehensively as possible. My
efforts have so far failed. There has been no response to my letters.
However, in his statement to the Third Committee of the GA in November 1996,
the Permanent Representative of Myanmar did indicate that a visit would be
possible at an appropriate and mutually convenient time. Although I have
remained ready to undertake such a visit, I have so far had no favorable
communication from the Government.
I feel bound to record my regret that the Government of Myanmar would
appear to adopt an attitude of non-cooperation. Clearly, the refusal of the
Government of Myanmar to allow me as Special Rapporteur to visit the country
considerably complicates the task I have set myself as Rapporteur to
ascertain and report on the human rights situation in Myanmar. The absence
of a response to my letters is, in the circumstances, regrettable because it
has not rendered possible the engagement of a constructive dialogue in the
light of the analysis which I have made of the present situation, the
current laws and practices, and the developments described in my reports and
which manifestly have an unfavorable impact on human rights in Myanmar. I
greatly hope, however, that the Government of Myanmar will cooperate and
engage in such a dialogue in response to the concerns of the international
community, as expressed in the resolutions so far adopted by the
General-Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights.
Although I have not been able to visit Myanmar itself, I have gathered
much information which I considered reliable from a number of sources: these
sources have included governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental
sources, including individuals who either have recently left Myanmar or else
had relevant information about the situation in Myanmar.
Further, in my continuing effort to obtain the most accurate and up-to-date
information on the situation in Myanmar, I visited Thailand in December 1996
to assess the situation of the recently displaced who had fled from Myanmar
to the refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border. I wish in this regard to
thank warmly the Government of Thailand for authorizing me to visit the
I wish to draw special attention to the fate of persons belonging to
the ethnic minorities living in the border areas. Displacement has become a
way of life for many of them. For the past 30 years, Karen, Mon, Karenni and
Shan have had to flee their homes and lands in order to avoid conscription
into compulsory labor for the military, in particular portering or for
development projects. I must also mention frequent violent attacks against
persons and property, which have often resulted to forced displacement. As a
result, family units and communities are invariably destroyed and the
displaced lose their natural and cultural environment if not their lives. In
addition to All these developments, which cause serious
consequences and social problems for the population living in that area,
military operations have recently been undertaken by the military in the
Karen State and artillery bombardments are reported to have caused damage
not only to property but also to human suffering and loss of life. Reports
from refugees who have been coming out of the border area describe in
horrifying detail the situation in the Karen State and it is feared that
there is little hope for improvement of the situation in the near future.
I now come to the politico-legal system in Myanmar. The present legal
and institutional framework through which legislative, executive and
judicial powers continue to be exercised in Myanmar is not in conformity
with established international norms governing human rights. These norms
require that the authority of government should be based on the will of the
people and that this will shall be expressed in genuine elections in which
everyone is entitled to participate either directly or through freely chosen
representatives. More than 6 years have now passed since the will of the
people in Myanmar was freely expressed in general elections in 1990. That
will continues to be frustrated. The National Convention established by the
Authorities since 1993 to devise principles to govern a new constitution has
been afflicted by criticisms of unrepresentativeness and of
procedures obstructing meaningful debate. There is no indication as to when
its proceedings will end.
In the meantime the suppression of the exercise of civil and political
rights is reported to attain new heights. A panoply of laws continues to be
used to criminalise and punish the very exercise of civil and political
rights. There are still frequent allegations of the arbitrary killings of
civilians and insurgents by members of the armed forces. Acts of torture or
other cruel or inhuman treatment are frequently reported to continue to
occur, especially in the case of the large-scale displacement of persons
belonging to ethnic minorities. Due process of law continues to be flouted.
In particular, the National Democratic League (NLD) and its leadership are
reported to be the constant subject of harassment and oppression to the
extent that the NLD found it necessary to write to the authorities to
highlight specific instances of arrests, harassment and other unjustified
action by officials. On the other hand, peaceful protests by students are
reported to have been met by the closure of the universities, thus putting
in jeopardy the education of a generation of the youth of the community.
In conclusion, I have to say with profound regret, at this time, that
there has been no change in the situation of human rights in Myanmar in the
past year and that there is still no concrete sign of improvement. It is
clearly not sufficient to point out and dwell upon systematic violations of
human rights. Constructive measures are called for. It seems to me that
the absence of respect for the rights pertaining to democratic governance as
expressed in the elections of 1990 by the people is at the root of All the
major violations of human rights in Myanmar. Clearly the establishment of a
democratic order in itself would create the most secure basis to remedy the
situation and further to create the proper infrastructure for the protection
and enjoyment of human rights. To this end a new process would be required
to be engaged by the authorities of Myanmar.
Recommendations in this regard are contained in paragraph 64, in Chapter III
F and Chapter IV B of the Report.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SLORC RESPONSE TO SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR
April 9, 1997
The following statement was made on 9 April 1997, following the oral
statement of the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar to the Commission on Human
Rights. The Special Rapporteur's report, E/CN.4/1997/64, was posted on this
conference on 22 March 1997.
INTERVENTION BY AMBASSADOR U AYE, LEADER OF THE MYANMAR DELEGATION UNDER ITEM 10
I would like to respond to the report contained in document No
E/CN.4/1997/64 just tabled, claiming to show the situation of human rights
in the Union of Myanmar.
Limitation of time constrains me from elaborating on each allegation in
detail. For this reason, my delegation has undertaken to circulate, for the
official records of this Commission documents Nos. E/CN.4/1997/123 and
E/CN.4/1997/124 in response to Mr. Lallah's report and an earlier one
mentioned therein; to highlight the inaccuracies contained in them, and also
to present the situation of human rights in Myanmar in its true perspective.
But even a superficial glance at Mr Lallah's reports reveal that they
are essentially political statements, in the guise of legal arguments,
intended to exert unwarranted pressure to influence the outcome of events
necessarily be decided by the inhabitants of my country and not by outsiders.
The report just tabled contains numerous cases of wide ranging
allegations. But on closer scrutiny, it can be seen that such allegations
are carefully qualified with phrases such as "it was reported", "according
to reports", "reportedly arrested" "allegedly arrested, etc. It would
naturally follow that flawed conclusions would result from such conclusions.
The reports go on to less than credible lengths to stress any perceived
negative elements, while turning a blind eye to all constructive and
positive achievements. This is what numerous delegations have attested to in
the proceedings of this very Commission when they reject the practice of
When this practise of one sided presentations about my country was
pointed out, the response was that the inclusion of more positive
developments would render such reports too lengthy and unwieldy. The
consequence, Mr Chairman, is that accuracy, objectivity and balance falls
victim to expediency, lack of resources and time constraints.
To be more precise, I shall touch on but a few of the allegations and
accusations made in the reports and their presentation.
The charge of non-cooperation has been made against my country. But the
record has clearly shown that while we have not accepted the appointment of
any special rapporteur for reasons repeatedly made known by my delegation in
this Commission, we have consistently cooperated and will continue to
cooperate with the UN and its representatives in dealing
with issues of human rights and other matters of common interest.
In the recent past, high officials of my Government have had numerous
rounds of fruitful dialogue with the Secretary General and his
representatives, and the most recent round with Mr Francesc Vendrell,
Director of the East Asia and Pacific Division of the UN, who visited my
country just a few weeks ago -- all of which are elaborated in our memoranda
presented to this Commission.
In fact, we have when requested, provided the Centre for Human Rights
and the thematic rapporteurs, including Mr. Lallah with information relevant
to my country and the thematic rapporteurs have undertaken to incorporate
our responses in their reports. Such exercises will continue to be pursued
in the future and Mr. Lallah will have the opportunity to visit Myanmar at a
mutually convenient time.
In his reports, and especially in an earlier one, Mr. Lallah had
emphasised primarily on the operation of the legal system in my country and
has attempted to reveal aspects, which in his view, amount to shortcomings.
We find it to be further perplexing that the report should attempt to cast
doubt on the validity and effectiveness of our judicial system. Courts of
law, civil, criminal and military are functioning
normally throughout the country.
From the time of its inception, the State Law and Order Restoration
Council has undertaken to ensure that the laws of the land be upheld to
preserve and strengthen the rule of law, and to maintain public order. The
current administration has inherited over 900 laws, including those enacted
during the time of the former colonial rulers, and by successive
Governments after the achievement of independence. Accordingly, Myanmar
continues to have a sound, efficient and fair judicial system, with the rule
of law prevailing in the land, and peace and stability being maintained in
accordance with the provisions of existing laws.
At present, the Supreme Court and lower courts of law at State,
Division and Township levels exist to administer justice independently
according to law; to protect and safeguard the interests of the people and
to assist in the maintenance of law and order; to educate the people to
understand and abide by the law; to work within the framework of the law for
the settlement of cases; to dispense justice in open courts unless otherwise
prohibited by law; to guarantee in all cases the right of defense and the
right to appeal under law; and to aim at reforming moral character in meting
out punishment to offenders.
The Code of Criminal Procedure and other relevant laws provide a
comprehensive legal framework and guarantees to ensure that a fair trial is
given to every defendant in a court of law. There are also safeguards
against the abuses of legal proceedings during trial.
The conduct of trials and administration of justice are carried out in
public courts in strict observance of the basic principles just mentioned.
The independence of the Judiciary is strictly maintained, and there exist no
control or influence exercised by the Government over the administration
of justice by the Judiciary.
Another aspect that the reports elaborate upon is the constitutional
process transpiring in my country during the current stage of transition.
Questions have been raised as to whether this constitutional process will
indeed lead to the establishment of multi-part democracy. In response to
such doubts, I would like to reiterate that the National Convention is being
convened to take concrete and systematic steps to build a genuine
multi-party democratic steps to build a genuine multi-party democratic state
in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Myanmar. This Convention
is a truly representative body encompassing representatives from various
political parties legally existing in the country, representatives of
national racial groups, the peasants, the workers, the intelligentsia, the
technocrats, and legal experts among others who enjoy the right to freely
exchange their views. As such there should exist no doubt as to meaningful
representation and democratic procedures in the
Consensus has already been achieved in the National Convention on
issues of primary importance such as over a hundred fundamental principles
which will form the basis of the new State Constitution, in addition to
agreements reached on the State, its basic structure, the Head of State, and
the delineation of the Legislative, Executive and Judiciary
In essence, the National Convention has reached its halfway point and
future sessions will be devoted to achieve consensus on issues such as the
fundamental rights and responsibilities of citizens, the holding of regular
elections, and the role of political parties, among others.
Hence, when calls for dialogue are made, our response is that dialogue
is already in progress in the form of the National Convention, which for
reasons just mentioned is the most appropriate forum for dialogue and
consensus building. On the other hand, there can be no necessity for any
dialogue between the Government and one single political party, at the
expense of all other legally existing political parties and the over 100
national races who constitute the Union of Myanmar.
To sum up, we hold the view that the reports in question constitute an
attempt to dispense with reality and to exert political pressure on the
Government. This exercise is bound to be counter-productive for the
promotion and protection of human rights in my country. I shall accordingly
reject these reports and their contents as being irrelevant and merely
reflecting the views of those who are opposing the Government
for reasons unconnected with the issue of human rights.
To us, the issue of human rights encompasses much more than legal
arguments, political manipulations and results of interviews with groups
openly hostile to the good intentions of the Government. For us human rights
encompasses issues neglected in the reports, issues such as the right to
develop, relying essentially on our own strength and resources, and to
live a life of dignity with adequate food, clothing and shelter for all.
None of these aspects of the right to development, absolutely none, have
received even superficial mention in the reports. Nevertheless, we shall
endeavour toward the attainment of such objectives while at the same time
persevere to protect our independence and sovereignty.
Commenting on his recent trip to the region, Mr. Lallah mentioned in his
report that the situation in Myanmar is so complex and susceptible to so
many different interpretations. After reporting thus, I find it most
regrettable that the document should draw simple and misguided conclusions
out of a complex situation.
SLORC ATTACKS KNU AT COMMISSION
April 9, 1997
Statement by U Denzil Abel, member of the Myanmar Observer Delegation
53rd Session of the Commission on Human Rights
under Agenda Item 10
Geneva 9 April 1997 [delivered 10 April]
I thank you for giving me the floor and affording me the opportunity to
inform the Human Rights Commission on the situation in my country, the Union
In the course of discussion under Item 10 my delegation has heard some
passing remarks with reference to the situation in Myanmar.
Judging by their remarks I must say that the speakers are ill-informed
and are not wholly aware of developments taking place in Myanmar. They are
unduly influenced by unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations inspired by
motives other than the cause of human rights.
My delegation knows All too well that the sources of these allegations
are none other than anti-government forces who are determined to denigrate
the outstanding achievements of my Government. They are in fact misusing the
noble concepts of human rights as an instrument to pursue their own hidden
My delegation however has to emphasize that the outcome of events in my
country must necessarily be decided by its own citizens and not by
outsiders, interlopers and opportunists.
My delegation has circulated two documents No. E/CN.4/1997/123 and No.
E/CN.4/1997/124. These documents aim to dispel the one-sided blinkered
vision actively promoted and propagated by proponents of black propaganda.
The documents also serve as a primary source for delegations interested in
gaining insight into the complexity of my country and the ongoing progress
achieved in creating conditions for a better life for the people of Myanmar.
The Myanmar Government accords top priority to reconsolidation in my
country. The colonial policy of divide and rule, and the misguided armed
struggle waged by some groups against successive governments since 1948 have
taken an enormous toll on the development of my country. The reconsolidation
of our more than (135) National Races is the key to peace, development and
The Myanmar Government extended the olive branch to the armed groups
and, accepting the sincerity of the Government All but one of the armed
groups have since returned to the legal fold [sic]. They are now gainfully
occupied with rebuilding and developing their remote border areas in
cooperation with the Government. The swords have been turned into
ploughshares for the commonweal.
The sole remnant is the Karen National Union (KNU). It has engaged in a
futile armed struggle against successive governments for almost half a
century. It has undergone many changes in both its leadership and political
The current guise of the KNU is to masquerade as a democratic force.
Its guise is meant to gain sympathy and support from the outside world. It
does not enjoy the support of the 2.7 million Kayins living peacefully
together with other National Races of Myanmar.
The KNU is a politically and militarily dissipated force. It has
unilaterally broken off peace negotiations with the Government after
reneging on the very terms it had proposed. While talking with the
Government it engaged with other anti-government forces and foreign sponsors
in plots to destabilize the peace and stability achieved so far in the
border areas and the nation at large.
The KNU resorts to terrorists [sic] attacks against civilians, they use
landmine carpeting which maim innocent people. They have of recent even
resorted to bomb attacks on places of worship. The KNU cannot but be seen as
a terrorist group.
Five years have elapsed since the Government unilaterally suspended
military operations and offered peace to the KNU. There has been no progress.
For the people in the Kayin State to live in peace and enjoy
development, the Myanmar Armed Forces are now compelled to conduct
mopping-up operations in the Kayin State against KNU bases, from
whence atrocities against the people are continually staged.
Hundreds of officers and other ranks of the KNU have taken advantage of
"trading arms for peace" of their own accord. They have brought in hundreds
of arms, magazines, landmines and thousands of ammunition. Returnees are
warmly welcomed. The returnees realize that years of fighting have achieved
nothing and that fighting does not serve the country in any way. They
realize the genuine goodwill of the Government and are now ready to
participate in regional development activities.
The so-called "Karen refugee camps" on the border are in fact safe
havens for the KNU armed group and their sympathizers. Credible foreign
analysts publicly confirm that the camps were used as staging points in KNU
raids into Myanmar.
The Myanmar Government stands ready to receive back All Myanmar
nationals who had been residing in the so-called "refugee camps".
Peace prospects are now bright for the people in the Kayin State.
Development plans can at long last be initiated. The long-suffering people
of the Kayin State can look forward to a measure of progress and prosperity
evident already elsewhere in the country.
My delegation takes the opportunity to inform the Commission on some
views and policies of the Government of Myanmar on human rights:
- Myanmar holds the view that countries differ from each other due to
differences in historical background, cultural traditions, religion and
level of development. Culturally and in terms of perception, there exists a
vast difference between the East and West. By this, we do not mean to infer
that there exist no human rights principles applicable to All persons.
However, divergences can be seen in approaches and implementation of human
rights practices. At the same time, countries or groups of countries should
avoid attempting to impose their views and values of human rights on the
rest of the international community.
- For developing countries like Myanmar, the most essential and fundamental
basic right is to meet the food, clothing and shelter needs and to raise the
standards of living of he people. Without ensuring this basic right, other
aspects of human rights cannot be effectively implemented. Although some
countries stress the importance of civil and political rights, developing
countries like Myanmar believe that the equal prominence should be accorded
to economic, social and cultural rights. The right to development is
especially important to developing countries.
- It is our belief that community rights should have equal importance, if
not more, than individual rights. Moreover, in times of conflict between
individual rights and national interest, there are situations that call for
priority to be accorded to the interests of the nation. Each individual
possesses not only rights but also duties and obligations to his country and
to his society. It is a fact that extreme practices of individual rights can
lead to disorder and unrest. Economic development and political stability
are interdependent since economic development can be obtained only during
times of political stability. Similarly, economic development contributes
toward political stability.
- As the view, approaches, application and implementation of human
rights differ from country to county because of the dissimilarities in
historical experience, cultural traditions, religion and level of
development. Myanmar believes that implementation of human rights in the
national context should be the responsibility and competence of each
government. Human rights should not be used as a pretext for interfering in
are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of states. By this, it does
not mean that human rights can be systematically violated behind the barrier
of non-interference. What remains paramount is to promote human rights
through international cooperation and consensus-building.
Together with other developing and non-aligned countries, Myanmar
believes that there should be strict observance of the principles of
sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal
affairs of other States. Myanmar is opposed to the misuse of human rights
with political motives, to double standards and selectivity, and means of
applying pressure. Such tactics are detrimental and counterproductive to
the advancement of human rights.
Thank you Mr. Chairman
UN HUMAN RIGHTS BRIEFING - DAVID TAW'S PAPER
April 8, 1997
The following is the paper presented by David Taw, National Democratic
Front, at the Briefing on Human Rights in Burma, at the UN Human
Rights Commission in Geneva.
SLORC Militarism Threatens the Survival of Non-Burman Ethnic
Nationalities in Burma
By David Taw
National Democratic Front
April 8, 1997
This is my first time participating in the meeting of the UN Commission
on Human Rights. I am very pleased to have this opportunity to discuss
the plight of the non-Burman ethnic nationalities whose survival and
ethnic and cultural identities are dangerously threatened by the military
regime of Burma. Burma is a multiethnic state, and I am a member of the
Karen people, one of the ethnic nationalities of Burma. I am a
representative of the National Democratic Front (the NDF), a coalition of
I would like to make four main points today, all of which indicate how
human rights abuses in Burma are inhibiting the long term stability and
peace in my country.
First, the ethnic nationalities of Burma are seeking a political dialogue to
find a lasting political solution in Burma, but our political freedoms and
rights are nonexistent under the current regime.
Second, the civilian populations in ethnic areas are being persecuted by the
SLORC army, which has resulted in thousands of human rights abuses
against innocent villagers throughout the country which is destabilizing
our traditional societies.
Third, the cease-fires between SLORC and the ethnic nationalities have
failed to achieve lasting political solutions--again because political
freedoms and rights have been eliminated by the SLORC troops in the
Finally, the recent offensive against the Karen people and the refugee
crisis on the Thai/Burmese border once again exemplifies SLORC's
oppressive nature and the widespread human rights abuses resulting from
its policy of force.
All of these abuses stem from the Burmese regime's militarization of the
country, and its refusal to seek lasting solutions through dialogue instead
MY FIRST POINT IS THAT THE ETHNIC NATIONALITIES DESIRE
FEDERALISM & A POLITICAL SOLUTION
It is a significant fact that almost all of the major ethnic groups have
resistance movements. Some resistance movements started a few years
after the country's independence from Britain in 1948, and many others
joined the struggle after the 1962 military coup. These resistance
movements are a greatly significant phenomenon because they indicate that
there is something totally wrong with the state of affairs of Burma.
SLORC often claims that their task is to prevent the disintegration of the
Union, and they usually try to justify their illegal grip on state power by
citing the ethnic resistance movements as a threat to national integrity.
Asserting that instability will result if they are not in power, SLORC has
even tried to legitimize the domination of the military in the future
political life of Burma through its national convention.
SLORC has often said that Burma will become the next Bosnia unless
there is a leading role for the Tatmataw (SLORC's Army). The logic of
this is very elusive. Here, I want to make it very clear that no ethnic
organization is seeking independence or secession from the Union. We
have been striving for our rights which are reflected in Article 27 of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and elaborated in the
UN Declaration on Rights of Persons Belonging to National and Ethnic,
Religious and Linguistic Minorities. We have been striving together with
our ethnic brothers and sisters, including Burmans, to end militarism and
build a new society based on democracy, human rights and federalism.
In 1990, the ethnic nationalities and the democratic opposition started the
process of constitution drafting with the aim of building a consensus about
how to construct a new union. International constitutional experts were
invited to our seminars, and many consultations were made. Free and open
debate characterize these proceedings which is very different from the
undemocratic SLORC-orchestrated national convention. The constitution
is now in its fifth draft. The extent of consensus we have already built up
is promising and strong proof that the threat of a Bosnia-like-situation is
minimal. The specter of another Bosnia is SLORC's propaganda and an
attempt to frighten the international community. We agree with the policy
statement of the National League for Democracy (the NLD) which has said
that a Panlong-like Convention has to be convened to lay down the
principles for a future constitution. Our drafting efforts are in preparation
for this opportunity. It is our strong belief that no constitution can be
imposed or dictated by any one organization or institution or any one group
of people. Only when the constitution reflects the true aspirations of the
people will there be a long-lasting constitution and practical resolution to
the current political crises. In order to bring this about, we must guarantee
an atmosphere in which all the peoples of Burma, regardless of their
ethnicity, sex and religion are allowed to participate in the constitution-
MY SECOND POINT IS ABOUT SLORC'S MILITARISM AND THE
ATTACKS ON THE CIVILIAN POPULATION
During the past eight years, the ethnic resistance movements have suffered
a lot from SLORC's terrorizing campaign against the ethnic civilian
populations and changes in the geopolitical climate. SLORC has usually
practiced a low intensity conflict strategy in the course of its military
operations against the ethnic resistance movements. This strategy is
known in Burma as the "Four Cuts" program (cutting information, food
supplies, financial support and recruitment for the resistance movements).
A large part of the Four Cuts program has been to isolate the resistance
movements from the surrounding ethnic civilian populations. To isolate
the resistance groups, the main target of the SLORC's army has been the
civilian population, not the resistance groups themselves. SLORC's army
threatens communities in order to make them give up their support for the
resistance movement and has committed thousands of human rights
abuses, including arbitrary arrests, torture, rape and summary executions of
civilians under the Four Cuts program.
One of Burmese army's major schemes is the practice of forcibly relocating
villages. Orders have been given to hundreds of thousands of villagers to
move to new areas under the tight control of the SLORC army. Villagers
are often given less than a week's notice to relocate. Later, these
abandoned villages are declared free-fire zones which means that SLORC's
army will shoot on sight anyone seen in the area of the village. In this
way, entire ethnic populations are being uprooted from their native lands
and traditional ways of livelihood, and scattered in new satellite villages
(actually concentration camps of the military). The new relocation sites
also become pools for military porterage or forced labor for SLORC's
militarily strategic roads. People often flee the satellite villages by
hiding in the jungles of Burma as internally displaced persons or running
across the border to Thailand.
Today, the horrors for the civilian population continue. Forced relocations
have not stopped. And human rights abuses against civilians by SLORC
troops continue to be routine throughout Burma.
MY THIRD POINT IS ABOUT THE FAILURE OF THE CEASE-FIRES
TO ACHIEVE LASTING POLITICAL SOLUTIONS
The mounting pressures on their respective communities and other factors
resulting from changes in geopolitics forced 15 ethnic resistance groups to
sign cease-fire agreements according to SLORC terms.
As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said in her video message, however, SLORC's
cease-fire agreements merely stop the shooting. They do not result in
further political dialogue which will address the rights of the non-Burman
ethnic nationalities and their role in the future political process.
Promises of regional development in return for cease-fire agreements have
not materialized either, apart from a few show-case openings of schools
and hospitals that were heavily publicized in the SLORC-controlled media.
Foreign humanitarian NGOs have never been allowed to operate
development projects in cease-fire areas. And the worst part of the cease-
fires has been the heavy deployment of SLORC troops to consolidate their
territorial control; they have acted like an occupation army and continue
their human rights violations including forced labor and forced relocation
campaigns in cease-fire areas.
In the Kachin area, since SLORC troops took control of all check points on
the border, replacing the Kachin Independence Organization, heroin has
freely flowed into Kachin state and the Kachin people have begun to face a
serious problem with increasing numbers of drugs addicts and related
HIV/AIDS problems. In the Mon area, after the cease-fire, thousands of
people have been conscripted for military porterage and forced labor for
roads and the construction of the Ye-Tavoy railway, a strategic transport
line for rapid deployment of armed forces to secure a gas pipeline route.
When a Mon leader asked the Commander of the South-Eastern military
command to stop the forced labor, he replied that the cease-fire agreement
was made just between SLORC's army and the Mon National Liberation
Army, and it had nothing to do with the administrative orders of various
levels of SLORC that were carrying out regional development projects.
The reply was nonsense because SLORC is the army and the army is the
SLORC. The cease-fire agreement between SLORC and the Karenni
National Progressive Party (the KNPP), lasted just three months and broke
down after SLORC did not comply with the Karenni's demand to stop
forced labor. Fighting has also recently flared up again between SLORC
and the United Wa State Army in southern part of the Wa area. These
continuing tensions and problems indicate that cease-fires without
accompanying dialogue on political and human rights issues will not be
able to bring long-lasting peace and stability to Burma.
MY FINAL POINT IS ABOUT THE RECENT OFFENSIVE AGAINST
THE KAREN PEOPLE AND THE REFUGEE SITUATION ON THE
The National Democratic Front (the NDF) believes that dialogue is the best
means to resolve the political problems in Burma, and we fully support the
UN General Assembly resolutions that urge SLORC to start a substantive
political dialogue, at the earliest possible time, with Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi and other political leaders including leaders of ethnic groups. This
desire for political dialogue was reaffirmed by all the ethnic groups--both
cease-fire and non-cease-fire groups--which attended the Mae Tha Raw
Hta meeting in February of this year. Based on this political will, the
Karen National Union (the KNU) took part in four rounds of negotiations
with SLORC. Despite ongoing negotiations, however, SLORC launched a
massive military campaign in Karen territory and intensified its campaign
of terror against the Karen civilian population. Karen villagers were
subjected to porterage, torture, rape and summary executions, and the
abuses continue. People have had to flee from their villages to escape
persecution by the SLORC army. To date, 20,000 Karen people have fled
into Thai territory because of the offensive. Thousands of others are
internally displaced, still in the jungle on the way to the border, unable to
flee because SLORC's military columns block their escape. The refugee
population on the Thai-Burmese border has now risen to 120,000. These
people have fled persecution by the SLORC army, and the KNU thanks the
Royal Thai Government for permitting these people to take refuge in the
border areas of Thailand and the international NGOs for assisting them
with basic needs.
Most of the refugees had been staying in border areas for years without
much incident until 1995 when the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (the
DKBA) and in some cases combined forces of the DKBA and the SLORC
army attacked refugee camps inside Thailand. In January of this year, two
large refugee camps close to the border were burnt down by the DKBA and
SLORC troops making more than 16,000 refugees homeless. Threats
continue to be made against the refugees in Thailand by DKBA and
SLORC troops. All the refugee camps along the border are now very
vulnerable to the cross border attacks from SLORC and DKBA troops.
Because of this insecure situation, it is urgently needed to move the refugee
camps to safer places and for UNHCR to extend protection to the refugees.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that the non-Burma ethnic
nationalities are seeking political solutions to the problems in Burma. We
are deeply concerned at SLORC's denial of political freedoms and its
military campaign against the civilian populations throughout Burma. We
call on the UN Commission on Human Rights to make the strongest
possible statements to the Burmese regime and work for a UN mediated
substantive political dialogue in Burma. Finally, we call on the
international community--UNHCR, the diplomatic community and human
rights NGOs--to urgently respond to the need for protection of the refugees
along the Thai/Burmese border who face a humanitarian crisis and
continuing threats from the SLORC army. Thank You.