Global perspective Human stories

UN human rights expert urges fundamental political change in Myanmar

UN human rights expert urges fundamental political change in Myanmar

In order to secure the human rights of its citizens, Myanmar must achieve national reconciliation and the political transition to democracy, a United Nations expert says in a report released today at UN Headquarters in New York.

The report of the UN Special Rapporteur, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, points to a number of positive developments in Myanmar, including the release of more political prisoners, but warns that “recent mellowing on the political front has not and could not possibly bring about significant improvements to the complex human rights and humanitarian situation; this is only feasible in the context of a sustainable process of political transition and national reconciliation.”

In order to achieve a credible democratic political transition, Myanmar must meet four fundamental conditions, according to the report. These are the inclusion of all components of society in political dialogue, the release of all political prisoners, the lifting of restrictions on political parties and groups, and the holding of free elections.

Citing the experience of other countries, Mr. Pinheiro says the possibilities for reconciliation and democratization in Myanmar must “be handled with great care and generosity.” The international community, he adds, “should start thinking about options to strengthen contributions from its various actors in the context of principled engagement with key players in the country.”

Looking to the broader context of international cooperation, he warns against “viewing the complex process as a struggle between good and evil,” and notes that with the international community engaged in the struggle against terrorism, “there is a tendency on the part of some nations to put human rights, the right to development and democracy in the back seat.”

The Special Rapporteur also cites ongoing reports of human rights violations, especially in areas where military operations continue. These include counter-insurgency operations which have reportedly affected hundreds of villages in Shan and Karen states and the forcible transfer of populations in Shan state. “Asylum-seekers continue to move into Thailand, a symptom of a complex internal situation which is essentially man-made and whose roots are as economic as they are political,” he says.

The report recommends that the UN begin considering an enhanced or reoriented role in some of the areas that could facilitate the transition process, including helping Myanmar to ratify human rights treaties and supporting improvements in the administration of justice.