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Regional Rights Groups Fret Over Burma

Originally appeared in Business Mirror

March 29, 2010

Regional human-rights groups have called on the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to make the systematic rights atrocities in Burma top priority among those to be taken up by the new Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) that will be launched officially at the Asean Summit in Hanoi on April 8 and 9.

The Task Force on Asean and Burma (TFAB) said the report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma (renamed Myanmar by the military junta) to the UN Human Rights Council said that rights violations in Burma “are a result of a state policy, originating from decisions by authorities in the executive, military and judiciary at all levels.”

The UN official also declared that some of the human-rights violations “may entail categories of crimes against humanity or war crimes.”

Leaders of the rights body are currently meeting at the Asean secretariat in Jakarta to discuss its proposed Rules of Procedure and priority issues. Civil society from all over the region will hold several events in Jakarta to highlight the need for the AICHR to actually promote and protect human rights.

“We want AICHR to be a credible body. There is strong evidence of crimes against humanity in Burma, such as forced labor, sexual violence as a weapon of war, and massive use of child soldiers. If the new Human Rights Commission ignores such issues, then it undeniably shows the bias and incapacity of the body,” said Aung Myo Min, coordinator of TFAB.

Khin Ohmar, coordinator of Burma Partnership, said Asean and AICHR must step up and finally give some support to the people of Burma who have had to deal with these harsh crimes all alone.

TFAB is a network of rights groups in Southeast Asia supporting democracy, peace and human rights in Burma. It supports a UN commission inquiry into crimes against humanity and war crimes in the military junta- ruled nation.

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