Friday, January 28, 2011

Burma defends its human rights record at UN council

Friday, 28 January 2011 13:16 Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The UN Human Rights Council met in Geneva on Thursday morning to hear Burmese representatives defend the country’s human rights record.

The three-hour review was conducted as a process of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which involves a review of the human rights record of all UN members once every four years.

The proceedings were broadcast live on the webpage of the UN human rights council.

The Burmese representatives included Dr. Myint Kyi, a member of the Burmese Human Rights Committee; Ye Htut of the Ministry of Information; Bo Win, the director of the Ministry of Education; Zaw Win, the director general of the Prison Department; Nyunt Shwe, the director general of Foreign Affairs; and Khin Saw Oo of the Finance and Revenue Department

The UN human rights council representatives raised questions regarding the fairness of the recent national election and allegations of recruitment of child soldiers, sexual violence including rape by soldiers, the right to form public associations and freedom of speech and the press.

Representatives from the US, UK, France and Germany welcomed the release of Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but they urged Burma to release all of the remaining political prisoners, which number more than 2,100, according to human rights groups.

In defending its human rights record, Burmese representative Myint Kyi told council members that more than 30 political parties, including ethnic parties, contested in the recent election, and the parties could canvass freely. She said that foreign journalists in Burma could observe the polls. The last national election in Burma was in 1990.

Prison director Zaw Win told the council that there were no political prisoners in Burma and all prisoners were detained because they violated the existing laws. He denied allegations that the conditions in Burmese prisons were below accepted standards and that prisoners were denied adequate health care.

He said that Burma’s prison health facilities met UN standards, and if a prison hospital could not cure a prisoner, he or she would be taken to a public hospital.

Ye Htut of the Ministry of Information said that Burma has allowed private publications since 2008 and there were now more than 160 journals, more than 180 magazines and more than 170 publishing houses in Burma.

Burma had freedom of the press, he said, adding that the authorities had recently allowed the formation of the Committee for Professional Conduct (CPC) to represent reporters and private journals. He said only a few of the members were Ministry of Information personnel. In a recent related development, the CPC representative of the Eleven Media Group, a Rangoon-based media organization, resigned from the CPC, citing a lack of belief that the committee could work to achieve press freedom.

The secretary of the CPC is Myo Myint Maung, the director of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD) under the Ministry of Information. Many observers in the media refer to the PSRD as ‘literature Kempatai’. [Kempatai refers to the Japan’s fascist police who occupied much of Burma during World War II.]

In related news, the Burma Forum on the Universal Periodic Review (BF-UPR), a coalition of 14 human rights organisations, held a public meeting in Geneva on Thursday. The group’s leaders said they will issue a statement on Monday, January 31, on whether the junta’s representatives’ statements to the human rights council should be accepted or not.

The Myanmar Human Rights Committee (MHRC) was formed on April 26, 2000. Its chairman is Maung Oo (a retired major general), the head of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The MHRC comprises nine subcommittees: the home affairs committee, the legal committee, the social committee, the labour committee, the health committee, the education committee, the international relations committee, the religious affairs committee and the women affairs committee.

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