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Challenging Burma’s Military Deception in Geneva and Naypyidaw

By Burma Partnership  •  January 31, 2011

Burma’s military regime continues to falsify and deny facts and attempt to fool the world with their distorted reality. Four days ago at the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, Switzerland, nations challenged the SPDC delegation’s fictitious presentation and expressed disdain at Burma’s “alarming” human rights record. Now, with today’s opening of the first session of the parliament, Burma’s supporters must continue to challenge the regime’s false assertions about the current situation in Burma and confront the military with the hard truth: Burma’s citizens continue to suffer under repressive military rule, with poverty, human rights abuses, and ethnic oppression a daily reality for millions. The regime’s elections and new parliament do not mark progress or a credible transition to democracy.

In Geneva, the SPDC representatives painted a rosy picture of human rights and development in Burma and disputed allegations of widespread and systematic human rights abuses, including rape and sexual violence by armed forces against women, detention, torture and murder of prisoners of conscience, and persecution of ethnic and religious minorities.

Many nations at the forum aggressively disputed the SDPC’s false claims and insisted on real change and real attention to human rights. Calls for the immediate release of prisoners of conscience, genuine dialogue towards national reconciliation, and serious investigation into possible crimes against humanity made for a more honest assessment of human rights than the SPDC’s.

On concerns over impunity, the SPDC delegation claimed there was “no widespread occurrence of human rights violations with impunity” and “no one is above the law.” However, the military has placed itself above the law, with article 445 in the 2008 Constitution enshrining impunity for any acts committed by SPDC members during its rule.

UN Human Rights Council member nations also denied the SPDC’s disproven assertions that the 2010 November elections were free and fair and involved the “full participation” of citizens. According to Burma’s UN Ambassador Wunna Maung Lwin, the elections were “free from vote rigging, violence and any kind of intimidation.” South Korea noted, “the process and result of the elections fall short of the expectations of the international community to be free and fair.” The United States responded that “the elections cannot be considered credible.”

Likewise, the SPDC’s parliament of military officers and cronies cannot be considered credible. The SPDC spent years setting the stage for this superficial transition. At Burma’s human rights review in Geneva, the SPDC distorted the truth and deflected repeated calls for serious reform and national reconciliation. Today’s opening session of parliament will be no different.

The restrictions already in place on parliamentary procedure contradict the false hope that the new government would be able to affect any real democratic progress. Members of parliament must submit their questions to the proper authorities ten days in advance; authorities can reject the question without appeal. Recording devices, radios, mobile phones, and computers are bannedSpeeches that might endanger national security, the unity of the country or violate the Constitution are restricted. These restrictions clearly show that the goal for the regime is not genuine democratization but a perpetuation of military rule. The regime will continue to pursue its own personal interests, rather than ensuring the wellbeing of the people of Burma.

The daily struggles of Burma’s citizens contradict the SPDC’s false assertions of progress. Civilians are fleeing from Burma in droves. Clashes in Eastern Burma related to the November elections continue; a reported 10,000 civilians fleeing from fighting remain in hiding in Thailand. This week, separate boatloads of Rohingya escaping persecution in Burma landed on shore in Thailand.

Human Rights Watch expressed hope that the international community, armed with the facts, could see through the deception of the military regime: “Burma’s human rights record remains deplorable, and forming a new parliament after sham elections in 2010 shouldn’t fool anyone.”

As the struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma enters a new phase, the best weapon remains the truth. Confronting the military regime’s deceit with the bare facts is essential. Burma still needs a democratically elected government willing and able to work for all citizens and protect their basic rights and freedoms. The military dominated parliament that opens today is not that government.

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