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UN HUMAN RIGHTS - Malaysian Interve

Subject: UN HUMAN RIGHTS - Malaysian Intervention on Burma

Please note bracketed sections [   ] were unsaid due to the time limit, but
presented in the text form.

United Nations Commission on Human Rights
Agenda Item 10
Oral Intervention
by Ms Debbie Stothard,

Mr. Chairperson,

I speak on behalf of ALIRAN, a Malaysian NGO, one of the 227 organizations
and individuals from member states of ASEAN [Association of South-East Asian
Nations], who have endorsed the Alternative ASEAN Declaration on Burma,
which is attached, for your information.

We wish to lodge our gravest concern at the deteriorating human rights
situation in Burma as documented by the Special Rapporteur and many
international organizations.

We view the inference that the right to development somehow justifies
widespread human rights violations in Burma as misleading and in direct
contradiction to the Declaration on the Right to Development [as adopted by
General Assembly resolution 41/128 of 4 December 1986.  Article 9, Paragraph
2 :"Nothing in the present Declaration shall be construed as being contrary
to the purposes and principles of the United Nations, or as implying that
any State, group or person has a right to engage in any activity or to
perform any act aimed at the violation of the rights set forth in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the International Covenant on
Human Rights"].

Human rights is not an "optional extra", indeed respect for human rights is
a prerequisite to genuine development.

Slorc's [State Law and Order Restoration Council] stated priority to ensure
food and shelter for Burma's citizens is perplexing in light of the fact
that Slorc recently willfully deprived tens of thousands of people in Burma
of these very rights.

As I speak, hundreds of unarmed civilians are losing their families, food,
shelter and possessions to looting and military attack by the Slorc.
Testimonies from recently-arrived refugees at the Thai-Burmese border
clearly show that there has not been any abatement in the Slorc's horrific
human rights abuses [including arbitrary killings, torture, rape and assault].

We are deeply concerned that the so-called development taking place in Burma
has failed miserably to ensure, the objectives outlined in the Declaration
on the Right to Development: ["...equality of opportunity for All in their
access to basic resources, education, health services, food, housing,
employment and the fair distribution of income."  as stated in Article 8,
paragraph 1].In fact, the irresponsible and destructive development
currently taking place in Burma is  a significant source of human rights

About 2 million people have been used as forced labor for infrastructure
development projects.  The Special Rapporteur also reports that forced labor
continues to be used throughout the country.  Evidence indicates many people
were repeatedly used as forced labor.  This practice is clearly a
contravention of the Convention Against Forced Labor [ILO No. 29] to which
Burma is a party.  [Under this Convention, forced labor means "All work or
service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and
for which the said person has not offered himself (or herself) voluntarily."
Article 2(1)].

Faced with evidence that the army forcibly recruits labor,  guards them at
gunpoint and uses deadly force against those who attempt to escape, we can
only view with amazement Slorc's assertion that such labor is "voluntary".
Assertions that this practice is "traditional" can only be seen as insulting
to both Burmese culture and our intelligence.

Villagers are terrified to refuse to work on Slorc projects because of the
severe brutality inflicted by troops against anyone who does not comply.
Forced labor is a common practice, even occurring on joint ventures with
multinational companies.

Documented abuses along the route of  a gas pipeline project in southeastern
Burma exemplify the tragedy of Slorc's version of "development".  Since
1991, Slorc and its multinational business partners have militarized the
region with more than 5,000 troops to secure and guard the 39-mile pipeline
route.  The region's 35,000 people have suffered a plethora human rights
abuses, including forced labor to build Slorc military camps and the
infrastructure for the pipeline.

Forced labor is also routinely used to improve tourist facilities, including
cleaning pagodas and renovating the national palace moat in Mandalay.  Large
populations in popular tourist cities have been forcibly evicted [to clear
the way for tourist facilities] and relocated to satellite towns where
malnutrition and appalling conditions prevail in these new locations.  At
least 500,000 people have had their economic, social and cultural rights
abused in this way.
We are concerned that the beneficiaries of such development are the Slorc,
their families and associates, as well as foreign companies.  We condemn
this greedy and deadly exploitation.  We are particularly ashamed to note
that companies working in active complicity with the Slorc include those
from ASEAN member states.

Recognizing that the peaceful resolution of the crisis in Burma can only be
achieved by tripartite dialogue, we call upon the Slorc to immediately
commence dialogue with the National League for Democracy, the one party
which won 82% of the seats in the 1990 election, and ethnic nationality groups.

We call upon the [United Nations] Human Rights Commission and the [United
Nations] General Assembly to continue ALL efforts to encourage the Slorc to
immediately cease its human rights violations.

We respectfully urge the member states of the United Nations, which include
ASEAN member states, in their individual and collective capacities to engage
in formal and informal efforts to facilitate the process of tripartite
dialogue in Burma, further we urge them to discourage their citizens from
engaging in business ventures which result in human rights violations in Burma.

Thank you Mr. Chairperson.
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