Monday, August 9, 2010

UN rights envoy, Burmese activists, meet in Thailand

Monday, 09 August 2010 23:16 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand today to meet activists during a fact-finding mission ahead of the submission of a report on Burmese junta’s rights violations, activists said.

Quintana spoke to such activists at the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB) based in Chiang Mai for about an hour after being in Thailand since Friday.

“I presented to him information about the human rights situation in Burma such as the fact that right activists have to hide their human rights educational work from authorities, the activists, who are arrested if they use rights terms in their work,” HREIB staff member Cherry Zahau said. “Moreover, I told him that 43 child soldiers had been recruited so far in this year, according to various reports on this issue.”

Meeting Quintana was for restoration of democracy in Burma and the HREIB was willing to co-operate with the military junta to fulfill this mission, the institute told the UN human rights special envoy at the meeting.

The UN envoy also met pro-democracy and ethnic organisations based in Mae Sot on the Thai-Burmese border on Saturday, Teik Naing, general secretary of the Association Assistance for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPPB), said.

“We explained how the junta has tortured and persecuted political prisoners … For instance, innocent persons were framed as suspects in the Thingyan bomb blast case, were severely beaten under interrogation and forced to give confessions,” Teik Naing said, of those accused of the blasts at a water-festival pavilion in Rangoon in April.

Moreover, Quintana told the Burmese pro-democracy organisations he would collect information on the situation of refugees who had recently fled across the Thai border, Forum for Democracy in Burma General Secretary Dr. Naing Aung told Mizzima.

“And also he told us about the ‘commission of inquiry’ and his opinions on it, the probable obstacles and difficulties it would face, the grounds for constituting this commission of inquiry, who will give a final decision on it, the impact of such a commission would have, not only on the SPDC [the junta] but also on others,” Naing Aung said, of Quintana’s call in March for the UN Human Rights Council to consider the establishment of a commission of inquiry into possible crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma.

Such a high-level UN inquiry into serious international crimes in Burma could result in a recommendation for a Security Council referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor to initiate an investigation.

Quintana said in his March 8 report to the UN rights council that the grave crimes perpetrated by the Burmese army were a “result of state policy that involves authorities in the executive, military and judiciary at all levels”.

He was appointed in 2008 and has visited Burma three times, last visiting for the country five days in February this year, on missions that led to the recommendations for an inquiry in the March report.

Inter Press Service news agency reported today, citing diplomatic and UN sources that the Burmese junta had denied Quintana a visa to return to Burma for his fourth visit.

The report said: "But Burmese pro-democracy activists in exile are hardly surprised by the treatment given to the Argentine lawyer, who is currently on a visit to Thailand and Indonesia ahead of preparing another report on Burma to be presented to the UN General Assembly in October."

His investigations on this trip to Thailand also led to meetings with members of the Women’s League of Burma (WLB), the Shwe Gas Movement, and ethnic Shan, Mon and Chin rights organisations.

The junta’s mouthpiece, the New Light of Myanmar, reported on April 7 that the junta’s human rights committee would submit its report to the UN Human Rights Council next February, a year after Qintana’s. Home Affairs deputy minister Major General Maung Oo is head of the committee, which reportedly constituted nine sub-committees handling home affairs, legal, social, labour, health, education, international affairs, religious affairs and women’s affairs rights issues.

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