Burma: Open Letter to the Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council


    We strongly urge you to continue the UN Human Rights Council resolution on Burma/Myanmar and as in past years extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur under Item 4 of the Council’s agenda.

    24 February 2016

    Dear Excellencies,

    We write to you regarding Burma/Myanmar as civil society groups working on the ground in the country. We strongly urge you to continue the UN Human Rights Council resolution on Burma/Myanmar and as in past years extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur under Item 4 of the Council’s agenda. At this important juncture in the country’s history, we request the Council and the Special Rapporteur to work towards establishing clearly benchmarked guidelines that will act as a road map for the future of human rights in Burma/Myanmar.

    Burma/Myanmar’s political transition is at the cusp of a new era, however this era is yet to come and a full transition is yet to take place. It is at such moments that we look to the Council for heightened vigilance and support. These moments are fragile and years of hard work can be easily derailed at such a time in the absence of close scrutiny and monitoring.

    When the Council considers Burma/Myanmar this year, the newly elected government would not have fully settled in and the extent of democratic civilian control still remains limited. Under the 2008 Constitution, the military is guaranteed 25% of Parliamentary seats; control of three key and powerful ministries; extensive powers through the General Administration Department (GAD) under the Ministry of Home Affairs; and has the upper hand in the powerful National Defense and Security Council (NDSC). Constitutional safeguards also prevent elections from truly being free, fair and credible while ensuring the military remains impervious to change. Recent legislative initiatives, such as the proposed NDSC bill, approval of the Presidential Security bill and extension of the military commander in chief’s retirement age by a further five years, are further bids to shore up the military’s power. Until the military is reformed, placed under civilian control and held accountable for its actions, it will remain the main perpetrator of human rights abuses.

    In the coming months, as we approach a potential point of departure for politics in the country, it is important to recognise that beneath the political transition there lies an enormous human rights challenge.

    As you may know the government’s pledge to release all political prisoners by 2013 is yet to be fulfilled. 2015 ended with 128 political prisoners still behind bars while 403 activists and human rights defenders awaited trials. The year 2015 saw an increased crackdown on dissent and the freedom of association. Notorious laws such as the Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Act and the Telecommunications Act remain prone to abuse alongside a draconian criminal code. Institutions such as the judiciary and the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission need urgent reforms to ensure their independence and impartiality. The military drafted 2008 Constitution in its current form entrenches impunity and enables the Burma Army to control all walks of life through its position in key ministries. Such fundamental institutional changes will require close monitoring and assistance by UN experts as well as public participation.

    Serious ongoing armed conflict and escalating forced displacements, particularly in ethnic areas, makes a mockery of the peace process including the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). The armed conflict continues to displace victims by the thousands and has affected most of these communities for many decades alongside widespread abuses including torture, sexual violence and extrajudicial killings, all of which still continue at present. This is in addition to the thousands of refugees along the Thailand-Burma/Myanmar border who continue to be displaced with little prospects for a safe and dignified return. The military continues to exert an iron grip on ethnic minority states and is the largest perpetrator of abuses, including the systematic use of sexual violence. A former UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights situation in Burma/Myanmar called for an inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity in the country and said that abuses were “a state policy that involves authorities in the executive, military and judiciary at all levels”. The recently signed NCA and the following Union Peace Conference have not signalled any possibility of change.

    In the past few years intolerance and religious extremism have been rife in Burma/Myanmar. Systematic discrimination imposed through legislation and state policy on Muslim minority communities is notable in this regard. The intensity of this discrimination provoked a massive regional refugee and humanitarian crisis last year, encompassing parts of South Asia and a major part of South East Asia. To date, the root causes for their persecution and flight are yet to be resolved.

    Deeply entrenched conflicts have to be resolved and truth, justice and accountability need to be established. This is once again a task of massive proportions that will require extensive international assistance, monitoring and expertise.

    We believe that it is imperative for the UN Human Rights Council to play a leadership role in this momentous time in the history of Burma/Myanmar. The Council should utilise its long experience of engaging with the country as it continues its nascent transition and political reforms toward democracy. In order to do this the body should continue its current engagement under item 4 of its agenda and take advantage of this historic moment to provide a clear vision and roadmap to tackle the massive human rights challenges Burma/Myanmar faces. The government of Burma/Myanmar should in tandem take immediate steps to facilitate the opening of the long pending Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) with a full monitoring and reporting mandate within the country.

    Please accept the assurance of our highest consideration.

    Source : www.forum-asia.org

    Organisation/s Involved

    Signed by:

    1.  ေက်းလက္လူငယ္ကြန္ယက္ (ေစတုတၲရာ)
    2.  စိမ္းေရာင္စို (တံတားဦး)
    3.  တံတားဦးစီမံကိန္းမ်ားေစာင့္ႀကည့္ေရးေကာ္မတီ
    4.  ေတာင္သူလယ္သမားမ်ားသမဂၢ (တံတားဦး)
    5.  ကံမလူငယ္အဖဲြ႕
    6.  ေညာင္ကုန္းသစ္ပင္ခ်စ္သူမ်ားအဖဲြ႕(ပြင့္ျဖဴ)
    7.  မင္းလွ၊ သရက္လူငယ္အဖဲြ႕
    8.  ပေဒသာမိုး
    9.  တြံေတးကြန္ရက္
    10.  လြတ္လပ္ေသာအရိႈခ်င္းမ်ားအင္အားစု (ငဖဲ)
    11.  Action Committee for Democracy Development
    12.  All Arakan Civil Society Organizations Partnership
    13.  All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress
    14.  All Burma Federation of Student Unions
    15.  Alliance for Gender Inclusion in the Peace Process
    16.  Arakan Rivers Network
    17.  Article 19 Myanmar
    18.  Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
    19.  Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters
    20.  Ayerwaddy West Development Organization (မင္းဘူး)
    21.  Azure Women Group
    22.  Back Pack Health Worker Team
    23.  Burma Issues
    24.  Burma Medical Association
    25.  Burma Partnership
    26.  Burma Study Center
    27.  Burmese Women’s Union
    28.  Candle Light
    29.  Care For Children
    30.  Chin Youth Network
    31.  Chinland Natural Resources Watch Group
    32.  Civil Authorize NegotiateOrganization
    33.  Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People
    34.  Committee for Protection and Promotion of Child Rights (Burma)
    35.  Community Response Group
    36.  Community Sustainable Livelihood Development Committee
    37.  Dawei 88 Geneation
    38.  Dawei Development Association
    39.  Dawei Research Association
    40.  Dawei Watch Foundation
    41.  Dawei Youth Fellowship
    42.  Diverze Youth Art Platform
    43.  Educational Initiatives
    44.  Equality Myanmar
    45.  Ethnic Affairs Institute
    46.  Ethnic Youths Development Center
    47.  Farmer Union (Dawei District)
    48.  Farmer Union Kyaukse
    49.  Farmers And Landworkers Union (Myanmar)
    50.  Forum for Democracy in Burma
    51.  Free Thinkers
    52.  Future Light Center
    53.  Gender Equality Network
    54.  Gender and Development Institute-­‐Myanmar
    55.  Genuine People’s Servants
    56.  Green Rights Organization (Shan State)
    57.  Green Soul
    58.  Green Trust Pyin Oo Lwin
    59.  Human Rights Defenders Myingyan
    60.  Human Rights Educators Network
    61.  Human Rights Foundation of Mon Land 24 February, 2016
    62.  Human Rights Watch Dawei
    63.  Humanity Institute
    64.  IFI Watch Myanmar
    65.  ISchool – Myanmar
    66.  Justice Movement for Community – Innlay
    67.  Kachin Canadian Association
    68.  Kachin Development Networking Group
    69.  Kachin Legal Aid Network
    70.  Kachin Peace Network
    71.  Kachin Women Peace Network
    72.  Kachin Women’s Association – Thailand
    73.  Karen Environmental and Social Action Network
    74.  Karen Human Rights Group
    75.  Karen Women’s Organization
    76.  Karenni National Women’s Organization
    77.  Karenni Refugee Committee
    78.  Karenni Social Welfare and Development Center
    79.  Kayan Women’s Organization
    80.  Land in Our Hands
    81.  Mae Tao Clinic
    82.  Mon Youth Organization-­‐Ye
    83.  Mong Pan Youth Association
    84.  Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability
    85.  Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (Mandalay Division)
    86.  Myanmar China Pipeline Watch Committee
    87.  Myanmar Network Organization for Free and Fair Elections
    88.  Myanmar People Alliance
    89.  Nay Thu Yein Law Firm
    90.  Network for Democracy and Development
    91.  Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma
    92.  Overseas Irrawaddy Association
    93.  Palaung Women’s Organization
    94.  Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays – Myanmar
    95.  Paung Ku
    96.  Peace & Open Society (Kyaukse Twonship)
    97.  Peace and Justice
    98.  Rays of Kamothway Indegnious Pepole Network
    99.  Sha-­‐it Social Development Foundation
    100.  Shan Human Rights Foundation
    101.  Shan Youth Power
    102.  Social Program Aid for Civil Education
    103.  Takapaw
    104.  Tanintharyi River and Indegnious People Network
    105.  Tavoyan Women’s Union
    106.  Ta’ang Students and Youth Organization
    107.  The Seagull: Human Rights, Peace and Development
    108.  Thuriya Sandra Environmentally
    109.  Union of Karenni State Youth
    110.  United ACT
    111.  Upper Chindwin Youth Network
    112.  Volunteer Youth Group (ေစတုတၲရာ)
    113.  Wan Lark Development Foundation (Arakan)
    114.  Warmly Metta Organization
    115.  Women And Peace Action Network (Shan State) 24 February, 2016
    116.  Women’s League of Burma
    117.  Yaung Chi Oo Workers’ Association
    118.  Yaung Zin Organization
    119.  Youth Development Network
    120.  Youth Pacemaker Organization
    121.  Zomi Students and Youth Organization