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Thai AICHR Rep Calls for ‘Open Doors’ in Burma

By The Irrawaddy  •  September 13, 2010

The Burmese military government should accept the UN’s proposed Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma if the regime wants to prove it has transparency, said a Thai representative at an Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) on Monday.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on the sidelines of a seminar at Chiang Mai University attended by some 70 participants, the main speaker, Sriprapha Phetmeesri, who is the Thai representative at AICHR, said the Burmese government should open its doors for the CoI to investigate crimes that have allegedly occured, especially in ethnic areas in eastern Burma, in order to prove its willingness to cooperate and show transparency.

Sriprapha said that she supported the establishment of a CoI, an idea initiated in March by UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma Tomás Ojea Quintana. It has already received support from Australia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Canada, the UK and the US.

Sriprapha said she had already told the UN Special Rapporteur that the CoI should not only be  comprised of people from outside the region, but that some experts from within the Southeast Asian region and those who have knowledge about Burma should also be involved.

London-based Amnesty International recently said that any inquiry should focus on reports of widespread and systematic persecution by the Burmese government forces against the civilian populations of the Muslim Rohingya minority in Arakan State, the ethnic Shan minority in Shan State, and the ethnic Karen minority in eastern Burma.

According to a 2008 report by the Thailand Burma Border Consortium, an umbrella group of donors and humanitarian organizations, the total number of Internally Displaced Persons in eastern Burma is likely to be well over half a million with at least 451,000 people estimated to have been displaced in rural areas alone.

Sriprapha said Burma’s human rights record will be a challenge for the rest of Asean members as they aim to complete the establishment of an Asean community by 2015.

Despite the Asean members raising concerns and calling on Naypyidaw to hold free and fair elections in November, Sriprapha said she worried that Burma will not take the calls too seriously.

“The Asean members have been voicing these concerns. But I don’t know how much attention the Burmese government is paying,” she said.
She said, “It would be good if independent observers are appointed who could monitor the election process in Burma.” However, she noted that did not hear of any consensus among Asean members about sending election observers to Burma.

She said she doubts change will come to Burma after the election as the current government ministers and officials have formed a party to contest the election.

Earlier, the secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Surin Pitsuwan, welcomed the upcoming election in Burma, saying, “I hope that Myanmar will prove the skeptics wrong and Myanmar will respond positively to the appeal for freedom of mobility and expression during the lead-up to the elections scheduled for 7 November.”

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This post is in: ASEAN, Crimes Against Humanity

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