Myanmar: Rights groups urge tough line on new UN resolution

International rights groups are calling for the European Union to take a hard line against Myanmar’s human rights violations in a new United Nations resolution that the 27-member bloc is drafting.

As The Myanmar Times has previously reported, in the first week of September the EU received a démarche from the United States urging it to move ahead with a new resolution on Myanmar, despite reluctance from some EU member states to do so.

The European Burma Network, a group of 15 Myanmar rights organisations, said in a statement on October 10 that the diplomatic note, along with the possibility of a resolution being drafted by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), had prompted the EU to begin writing a new resolution.

The US embassy in Yangon declined to comment on the resolution.

The EU also refused to answer specific questions about the resolution or démarche. In a statement to The Myanmar Times on September 27, it said the body was “reflecting at the moment on how best to acknowledge the progress made while recognising the challenges that remain”.

Myanmar has been subject to a UN resolution since 1991. Myanmar argues that no resolution is warranted and says it was told that the EU “would end the practice of tabling a draft resolution against Myanmar” in 2013 in exchange for Myanmar helping the EU draft the 2012 resolution.

The draft is likely to be put to a vote during November after it is circulated to other member states for input but no firm date has been set.

During the drafting process a number of rights groups have urged the EU to take a more serious tone with Myanmar, saying that last year’s resolution was too weak.

Fortify Rights said in a lengthy statement last week that the resolution “should condemn the wide range of ongoing human rights violations by the government and armed forces of Myanmar and provide clear benchmarks for measurable improvement, including establishing the presence of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Myanmar.”

The UK Campaign for Burma, meanwhile, said the resolution should consider all human rights violations in Myanmar but pay special attention to the crimes of rape and sexual violence. Burma Campaign UK said that it had received “increased reports of rape and sexual violence” by the Tatmadaw and other security forces since President U Thein Sein took power.

“The upcoming UN General Assembly resolution on Burma is an opportunity to include strong wording calling for an end to impunity for crimes of rape and sexual violence,” the group said.

Daw Zoya Phan, campaigns manager for the organisation, added, “This is a matter of urgency – one rape is one rape too many.”

Myanmar was one of 80 countries that declined to endorse the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative put forward by British Foreign Secretary William Hague at the UN on September 24.

The European Burma Network criticised the EU for having “seriously considered” not drafting a resolution despite Myanmar failing to meet any of the 21 points laid out in last year’s resolution.

“It should be of great concern that two-and-a-half years into the reform process,” it said, “there has been so little progress in addressing so many of the concerns consistently raised in the annual UNGA resolution.”