UN: EU Introductory Statement on situation of human rights in Myanmar

UN 61st Session; III Committee, Agenda Item 67(c): Promotion and protection of human rights, human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives
Introductory statement on behalf of the European Union on the draft resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

Held by Ms. Satu Suikkari, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Finland to the United Nations

New York, 9 Novemmber 2006

Mr. Chairperson,

On behalf of the European Union and all cosponsors, I have the honour to introduce the draft resolution under agenda item 67 (c), entitled “The Situation of human rights in Myanmar”, contained in document A/C.3/61/L.38.

In addition to the cosponsors listed in L.38, this draft resolution has been co-sponsored by the following countries: Albania, Andorra, Bulgaria, Iceland, the Republic of Korea, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Serbia and Turkey.

I would like to inform of the following revision that has been made to the text: in operative paragraph 1 (a), second line, the words "and his oral presentations" have been included after the words "situation on human rights in Myanmar".

Mr. Chairperson, this resolution is the subject of an ongoing consultative process between cosponsors and interested delegations, in particular the delegation of Myanmar itself. We thank all delegations involved for their constructive engagement in this process and we look forward to continuing our discussions with them on the contents of the tabled draft.

Mr. Chairperson, in the year that has passed since the General Assembly last adopted a resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, there have been some encouraging developments in the country.  Indeed, we take these as a sign that the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly on the situation in Myanmar are beginning to have an impact in these areas.  We have duly reflected these positive developments in the text before you.  Thus, we are pleased to reiterate again this year our welcome for the Government of Myanmar's declared willingness to cooperate with the UN and other international organisations in addressing the issues of underage recruitment and child soldiers, following its adoption in 2004 of an outline Plan of Action to tackle those concerns.  Moreover, we encourage the Myanmar Government to continue and to strengthen the combat against impunity concerning forced labour.  Myanmar's launch of the Three Disease Fund to tackle HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria is a further development that merits welcoming.

Unfortunately though, Mr. Chairperson, there is still much cause for grave concern regarding the human rights situation in Myanmar. In fact, it is deeply depressing that the kinds of human rights concerns troubling the international community today are very similar in nature to those that have been doing so since UN special rapporteurs first began reporting on the situation there 14 years ago.  There has still been no progress towards genuine democratic reform.  Restrictions on, and harassment of, politicians and human rights defenders continue unabated.  In May this year Aung San Suu Kyi had her house arrest prolonged by another 12 months, and other NLD leaders saw their terms of detention extended.  According to the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, at the end of August 2006 the number of political prisoners was estimated to stand at 1,185. The EU is concerned about reports that during recent months members of the NLD in great numbers have been put under heavy pressure to resign from the party.  The situation of ethnic communities remains equally desperate.  Their members continue to be the victims of forced labour, rape and other forms of sexual violence, extortion and expropriation.  The armed conflicts in the ethnic areas seriously affect the civilian population and their human rights.  Immediate measures are needed to address impunity.  Prisoners continue to face torture and ill treatment. 

The state of cooperation between Myanmar and the United Nations system has fared little better.  The former Special Envoy of the Secretary-General was prevented from visiting Myanmar between March 2004 and the beginning of this year, when he resigned, and the Special Rapporteur has not been able to visit the country since November 2003.  This state of affairs is all the more regrettable since engagement with the UN, including through the Secretary-General's good offices and cooperation with the Special Rapporteur, would undoubtedly help Myanmar set itself firmly on course towards addressing the human rights violations referred to in this resolution and achieving an inclusive restoration of democracy, as well as building the foundations for sustainable development and national reconciliation.  In this regard, we are deeply concerned by the Special Rapporteur's observation this year that the positive political momentum he noted in the early years of his mandate is apparently stalled.  The fact that the UN Under-Secretary for Political Affairs was allowed to visit Myanmar in May 2006 and is scheduled to go there again this week accordingly gives us a glimmer of hope.  We sincerely hope that this will pave the way for more systematic use of the Secretary-General's good offices, through appointment of a new Special Envoy allowed to visit Myanmar without restrictions.  That could signal the beginning of a new and better chapter, both for Myanmar's relations with the international community, and for its citizens' prospects for a brighter future. 

Mr. Chairperson, the sponsors look forward to working further with all concerned delegations on this text. We hope that after the completion of this consultative process, the General Assembly will once again, as in previous years, adopt this resolution without a vote, as a sign of our concern for, and solidarity with, the people of Myanmar.

Thank you,   Mr.  Chairperson.