UN official: Burma needs priority priority attention from ASEAN

Alternative ASEAN – Burma
17 Nov 07

Burma’s human rights situation is still urgent and deserves priority attention from leaders attending the ASEAN Summit in Singapore, said UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro here today.

“Regional governments, individually and as members of the United Nations, have an important role in working for the improvement of human rights in Myanmar. I have said this on numerous occasions in my meetings and discussions with representatives of ASEAN and ASEAN members.

“Therefore, it is my sincere hope that the critical situation in Myanmar receives serious consideration at the ASEAN Summit,” said Prof. Pinheiro. He made the statement on the record during a meeting with human rights groups in Bangkok this morning, shortly after completing a five-day visit to Burma.

While Prof. Pinheiro said that the details of his findings would be presented in an official report to the UN Human Rights Council, he confirmed that he found no improvements in the human rights situation and reiterated concerns over the harsh detention conditions faced by political prisoners.

Regional human rights activists welcomed Prof. Pinheiro’s statement and urged leaders at the ASEAN Summit not to backslide on pressure for the Burmese military regime to engage in genuine reforms.

“Professor Pinheiro was allowed to visit Burma after being barred by the military regime for four years. We believe that his visit was a consequence of increased international pressure, so pressure must be sustained to ensure that it brings genuine, positive results,” emphasized Debbie Stothard, coordinator of the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (Altsean-Burma).

“The human rights violations in Burma have affected human security in this region, therefore ASEAN leaders have a responsibility to ensure that the military regime ceases its violations,” said Ms Stothard.

The agenda of the 13th ASEAN Summit, which begins in Singapore tomorrow, is likely to be overshadowed by the severe economic and political deterioration in Burma that saw fuel prices rise by up to 500%, nationwide protests, and street killings of Buddhist monks. Meanwhile the military offensive in Eastern Burma against ethnic Karen communities has intensified, displacing 76,000 civilians, with 25,000 facing imminent starvation this year.

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