By Burma-Myanmar UPR Forum
(Geneva – 8 October 2015) Today 14 civil society organisations from the Burma-Myanmar Universal Periodic Review Forum and its partner civil society organisations from Burma/Myanmar urged the Myanmar Government to uphold its human rights obligations and implement the commitments it made during the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2011.
The delegates addressed diplomats during UPR Info’s UPR Pre-Session in Geneva and urged them to make informed recommendations during this year’s UPR to reflect the local voices that are critical in driving the country towards a genuine democracy that respects and promotes human rights.
The country will be reviewed on its human rights record by UN Member States at the 23rd Working Group session on 6 November 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland.This second UPR cycle will include the human rights situation in the country since President Thein Sein’s administration took over in 2011.
“It would be inaccurate to think the reform process initiated in 2011 has brought positive change in people’s lives,” said Aung Myo Min, Executive Director of Equality Myanmar and Co-Leader of the Burma-Myanmar UPR Forum. “While the economy has started to transform, this is at the cost of severe human rights violations, such as land confiscations and torture perpetrated at the hands of the military and business cronies for the advancement of development projects. We need to inform diplomats and the international community of the reality of daily lives of our people to guarantee they make informed recommendations.”
While the Government agreed to ratify core international human rights treaties during the last UPR cycle, they have failed to ratify any of them since 2011. The lack of implementation of these agreements has led to systematic and persistent human rights violations that continue unabated throughout the country. The Government has failed to review and amend laws that fall short of international human rights standards, worsening conditions for human rights defenders and activists who continue to be imprisoned without fundamental rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association and expression. In addition, the recent laws for the so-called “protection of race against religion” discriminate against religious minorities, and are further marginalising the already vulnerable Muslim communities.
Furthermore, the failure to amend the 2008 Constitution that entrenches military power in politics disenfranchises ethnic and indigenous peoples – a key stumbling block to the advancement of human rights. The continuing military offences against ethnic and indigenous peoples by the Myanmar Army has displaced over 140,000 new internally displaced persons in ethnic areas since President Thein Sein came into power, while approximately 110,000 refugees continue to live as refugees along the Thailand-Burma/Myanmar border for nearly 30 years. The systematic and widespread abuses by the Myanmar Army in ethnic areas are tantamount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, as sexual violence against ethnic women continues to be used as a weapon of war with total impunity. In addition, land confiscation and land rights related abuses worsens as the country opens up to economic opportunities, further threatening the livelihood of the people, particularly in ethnic and indigenous peoples areas.
“A backsliding of the human rights situation especially since 2013 has revealed the true nature of so-called democratic reforms in Burma,” said Khin Ohmar, Coordinator of Burma Partnership and Co-Leader of the Burma-Myanmar Forum. “Ask the students imprisoned for peacefully protesting for education reform, hundreds of farmers arrested for trying to protect their land, the hundreds of thousands of displaced people in ethnic areas, or religious minorities suffering state-backed discrimination and violence if the past four years has seen an improvement in the human rights situation.”
In a country where the National Human Rights Institution is not independent and is ineffective when it comes to protecting human rights and ensuring legal redress, the Burma-Myanmar UPR Forum remains an important platform for providing local and international actors with the accurate human rights situation on the ground and most importantly for providing concrete solutions throughout the UPR process.
“UPR Info organises UPR Pre-Sessions in the country and in Geneva as it is critical to facilitate constructive dialogue between local human rights defenders and diplomats to ensure local voices are at the heart of the UPR: that their concerns and needs are reflected and addressed in the UPR recommendations, and most importantly that they can provide concrete solutions to improve the human rights situation on the ground,” said Emilie Pradichit, Asia Regional Representative of UPR Info. “As the review of Burma/Myanmar is taking place two days before the country elections, it is hoped the recommendations would influence the human rights agenda of the upcoming government and would encourage the government to work in cooperation with civil society and all relevant stakeholders in implementing these recommendations,” she continued.
The Burma-Myanmar UPR Forum, is comprised of more than 35 local human rights organisations based inside the country and along the Thailand-Burma/Myanmar border. The members of the Burma-Myanmar UPR Forum consists of civil society organisations that include former political prisoners, women leaders, youth, indigenous peoples, and sexual minorities among others. It stands by the principal of Universality of Human Rights and reflects local communities’ wish for their country: an inclusive, diverse and equal society – where leaders pave the way for younger generations and empower women, and minorities are given an equal voice.
Hla Myat, Head of Colors Rainbow, the leading LGBTI rights organisation, emphasised the importance of being part of the Burma-Myanmar UPR Forum stating, “As the LGBTI Community, we are not seeking special rights, but equal rights. We no longer want to be casted as criminals by section 377 of the Penal Code. The LGBTI community has found brothers, sisters, and allies in the UPR Forum who will stand by our side and show the Burmese society that the country we want is inclusive and equal. Their support is significant as it validates our fight for legal recognition and existence and helps our struggle to be accepted and mainstreamed in society.”
For more information, please contact:
Aung Myo Min (English, Burmese) Email: email@example.comTel:+41 (0)1767713553 Geneva)
KhinOhmar (English, Burmese) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +41 (0)767713551 (Geneva)
The “Information on the Status of the Human Rights Situation in Myanmar” consisting of 16 UPR Advocacy Factsheets provides snapshots from the second cycle UPR submissions, highlighting the human rights issues in the country. Please download the “Information on the Status of the Human Rights Situation in Myanmar” (16 UPR Advocacy Factsheets), written by members of the UPR Forum from the following link: http://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/myanmar/session_23_-_november_2015/upr_advocacy_factsheets_-_myanmar2015.pdf.
In the first cycle of the UPR, civil society organisations based along the Thailand-Burma/Myanmar border made the stakeholder submission in the name of Burma UPR Forum. Read the first cycle UPR submission by the Burma UPR Forum here: http://lib.ohchr.org/HRBodies/UPR/Documents/Session10/MM/JS3_JointSubmission3_eng.pdf