Myanmar ‘must remain’ on UN rights council’s agenda

Activists dispute foreign minister’s claim that all concerns have been addressed

John Zaw, Mandalay
October 1, 2014

Activists in Myanmar say it is far too soon to drop the country from the agenda of the United Nations’ human rights body, citing continuing military abuses in ethnic areas, a surge in land grabs and the troubling rise of anti-Muslim rhetoric in the country.

Many advocacy groups say the human rights situation in Myanmar remains urgent — contradicting claims made by Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin this week, who told leaders at the UN General Assembly that the country has addressed “all major concerns related to human rights” and should no longer remain on the UN Human Rights Council’s agenda.

Khon Ja, a coordinator with the Kachin Peace Network in Yangon, said severe cases of human rights abuses persist, despite the country’s much-heralded change from a military-led government to quasi-civilian one.

“A new wave of systematic rights abuses is ongoing under the new government,” Khon Ja told on Tuesday. “There has been no decrease in human rights cases according to the research from rights groups.”

An August report by the Network for Human Rights Documentation-Burma (ND-Burma), for example, cited 103 cases of rights abuses in the country in the first six months of 2014 alone. These included cases of torture, extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests, rape and forced labor. The government has touted its ongoing peace process with the country’s disparate armed ethnic militias, yet the ND-Burma report says rights violations are “rampant” in conflict areas and beyond.

Likewise, a report this year from the Women’s League of Burma claimed that more than 100 women in conflict areas in Kachin and Shan states had been victims of rape at the hands of Myamnar’s army since the 2010 elections that installed the current government.

Aung Myo Min, executive director of the NGO Equality Myanmar, says the government has yet to demonstrate its commitment to addressing human rights abuses.

“We have got the right to express our concerns and opinions in the new Myanmar, but no action is implemented by the government,” he told

Rather than abating, Aung Myo Min says the possibility of abuses such as already endemic land confiscations could surge in the coming years as businesses rush in to invest in volatile areas.

“The government has the responsibility to address human rights abuses [but] it depends on how willing they are,” he said.

In a July statement following a visit to the country, the UN’s human rights rapporteur for Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, warned of troubling patterns that could reverse many of the reforms the government has touted.

“There are worrying signs of possible backtracking, which if unchecked could undermine Myanmar’s efforts to become a responsible member of the international community that respects and protects human rights,” Lee said.