News / Asia

UN Rights Envoy Says Little Progress in Burma Despite New Government

United Nations envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana speaks to journalists at Yangon international airport in Yangon, Burma (File Photo)
United Nations envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana speaks to journalists at Yangon international airport in Yangon, Burma (File Photo)
Daniel Schearf

A U.N. envoy for human rights in Burma says the new government is failing to address the widespread abuse of ethnic-minority groups. 

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Tomás Ojea Quintan, says the new government is doing little to prevent military abuses against ethnic minorities living along the border with Thailand.

The military has been fighting for decades against ethnic rebel groups wanting autonomy and has cited the internal conflict as a reason it needs to maintain a significant degree of power.

In November, Burma held its first election in two decades, saying it was a final step in its move from a military government to civilian rule. The election was widely criticized as neither free nor fair but merely a way for the military to maintain power.

Despite the installation of a civilian government, Quintana say nothing has been done to address the ongoing violence.

“Systematic militarization contributes to human-rights abuses," he said. "These abuses include land confiscation, forced labor, internal displacement, extrajudicial killings, and sexual violence. They are widespread. They continue today. And, they remain essentially unaddressed by the authorities.”

Quintana said a U.N. commission of inquiry may be needed to help with national reconciliation and accountability.  He said in some cases, such as forced labor, the abuses are clearly state-sponsored.

“Myanmar may be the only or one of the only countries in the world where forced labor is being implemented by the state not private actors,” added Quintana.

Nonetheless, Quintana said there were some positive signs such as lawmakers raising questions about human rights and the treatment of ethnic groups.

"The questions included the possibility of a cease-fire in Kayin State," he said. "Also, the issue of citizenship status of Rohingyas, and whether amnesty would be granted to Shan political prisoners."

Quintana spoke to reporters in Bangkok after a one-week visit to Thailand that included meetings with activists, experts, and officials about the situation in Burma.

The U.N. representative was not able to visit Burma because authorities refused to give him a visa, but he met with Burma’s ambassador to Thailand. He also spoke by phone with Burma’s democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who he says supports the idea of a U.N. commission.

Quintana said national reconciliation required the participation of all stakeholders and needed to start with the release of more than 2,000 political prisoners jailed in Burma.

His comments echoed those of U.N. Special Envoy to Burma Vijay Nambiar, who was allowed to visit the country earlier this month.

Last week, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Yun was also allowed in. He said the United States is willing to improve bilateral relations with Burma, but steps are needed toward democratic governance, respect for human rights, and the release of all political prisoners. He also conveyed U.S. concerns about Burma’s military relationship with North Korea.

Yun was the first U.S. official to visit Burma since the government was installed.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid