UN condemns Burma's human rights record ahead of 'sham' election

Pagoda, Myanmar

Pagoda, Myanmar

A draft United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning Myanmar's (Burma’s) human rights record was made public yesterday, just three days before Burma’s 'sham' elections take place.

The draft resolution, tabled by the European Union and co-sponsored by 42 countries, demands that the regime release all political prisoners and engages in a “genuine dialogue” with the democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi, and ethnic nationalities. It also calls for an end to displacement of ethnic civilians and the recruitment and use of child soldiers, as well as immediate action to grant citizenship to the Rohingya Muslim people, a minority currently denied citizenship despite living in Burma for generations.

While falling short of calling for the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry, the resolution paves the way for such an initiative. It expresses “grave concern” at the continuing human rights violations, including rape, torture and arbitrary detentions, and urges the Burmese regime to hold “without further delay a full, transparent, effective, impartial and independent investigation into all reports of human rights violations, and to bring to justice those responsible in order to end impunity” as a matter of priority.

Burma will hold its first elections in 20 years this Sunday 7 November, but the flawed electoral process has been denounced by the international community, including the United Kingdom, as a sham.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide's East Asia Team Leader Benedict Rogers said: “We welcome the UN General Assembly resolution, but we urge the international community to go further and establish a formal Commission of Inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity in Burma. The UN’s own Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma has recommended it, at least 13 countries support it, and Sunday’s sham election will result in no meaningful change in Burma and no hope of addressing impunity. The new constitution guarantees the military immunity for past, present and future crimes, so the onus is on the international community to act. It is abundantly clear that the election on Sunday will be a charade, and the regime must be sent a clear, unambiguous message that this process will not be accepted, and that instead, if it wants to gain international acceptance, it must engage in a meaningful tripartite dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy movement and the ethnic nationalities. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon must take the lead in trying to revive such a process. Meaningful change will not happen in these elections on Sunday, but the UN must be ready to seize the initiative on Monday to bring about meaningful change in Burma.”

A report released on 19 October revealed that the health of populations in conflict-affected areas of eastern Burma, particularly women and children, is amongst the worst in the world, a result of official disinvestment in health, protracted conflict and the abuse of civilians.

The report Diagnosis: Critical, based on a survey by community health organisations of over 27,000 people in eastern Burma, shows that over 40% of children suffer from malnutrition and 60% die from preventable disease. One in fourteen women is infected with malaria, one of the highest rates of infection in the world.

One in seven children in eastern Burma will die before age five, almost double Burma’s official figures, which are amongst the worst in the world. The maternal mortality ratio is triple the official national figure.
The Thai Children’s Trust  welcomes the draft United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning Burma’s human rights record which has been tabled by the European Union and co-sponsored by 42 countries.   The UK-based charity which has worked for disadvantaged and vulnerable children in Thailand for over 30 years also supports the call by Christian Solidarity Worldwide to go further and establish a formal Commission of Inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity.

The situation on the Thai Burma border is deteriorating – a drama forgotten by much of the world.  Concern is growing for the increasing number of children being sent into Thailand unaccompanied to escape intimidation and violence.   Orphans are arriving with no money or possessions.   Estimates put the total number of refugee children at 300,000.   Many are facing acute malnutrition, leaving them susceptible to ill health and wasting conditions.  

The Thai Children’s Trust is helping the migrant children through a dry food programme run by the Mae Tao Clinic on the border town of Mae Sot, spearheaded by Dr Cynthia Maung.  Through her channels, the charity is able to supply some 10,000 children with rice, fish, oil, salt, sweet powder and beans.  It is also supporting a school lunch programme run by another remarkable woman, Naw Paw Ray, Director of the Has Thoo Lei Learning Centre and Chair of the Burmese Migrant Workers Education Committee – a federal body which supports the work of some 80 schools with some 13,000 refugee children.

“Hungry children cannot study”, says Andrew Scadding, CEO of Thai Children’s Trust.  The rising number of children arriving from Burma and the falling resources available to feed them are already in crisis.  It could become a catastrophe.  We have an appeal running to bring in £100,000 urgently to benefit 3,500 of the most needy children directly.”

Please see the film posted on YouTube today by the Thai Children’s Trust, which vividly illustrates the violence which leads children to seek sanctuary in Thailand. www.thaichildrenstrust.org.uk/thebiggive

Source: CSW/UN/TCT

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