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Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Calls for a Commission of Inquiry as Conflict Continues in Eastern Burma

By Burma Partnership  •  June 27, 2011

Earlier this week, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi vocalized her strong support for a UN-led Commission of Inquiry in a video message recorded for a hearing of the US House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. The hearing was held to highlight the fraudulent November 2010 elections, as well as the ongoing conflict in Kachin State.

The Congressional Committee hearing was entitled “Piercing Burma’s Veil of Secrecy: The Truth Behind the Sham Election and the Difficult Road Ahead.” Representative Don Manzullo, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on East Asia, criticized last year’s elections and drew on the ongoing fighting in Kachin State to highlight the lack of change in Burma: “The recent news of clashes in Burma’s Kachin province between government troops and ethnic minorities, which has been the heaviest fighting in 17 years, adds further evidence to the argument that the situation in Burma has not changed,” wrote Manzullo in his statement.

In her video statement, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi called for the implementation of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) Resolution on Burma from March of this year, which calls for the release of political prisoners, freedom of information and association, an independent judiciary and political reconciliation. She questioned the regime’s intentions in detaining political prisoners, stating, “Why are they still in prison if this government is really intent on making good progress toward democracy? If it is sincere in its claims that it wishes to bring democracy to Burma, there is no need for any prisoners of conscience to exist in this country.” After the regime’s false amnesty last month, the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners – Burma reports that there remain 1,992 political prisoners in Burma.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi thanked the United States for all it has done for the cause of democracy in Burma in the last two decades. She also encouraged the country to do whatever possible to ensure the implementation of the UNHRC Resolution on Burma. Read the full resolution here.

The highlight of her video speech was undoubtedly her firm support for UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma Tomás Ojea Quintana’s recommendation for a UN-led Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into possible crimes against humanity and war crimes. “Professor Quintana has spoken of the need for a CoI into human rights violations in Burma,” said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. “I support his call for such a commission.” Watch her video testimony here.

She emphasized the preventative role of a commission, stating, “It is simply a commission of inquiry to find out what human rights violations have taken place and what we can do to ensure that such violations do not take place in the future.”

Indeed, the importance of investigating ongoing human rights violations, including those currently occurring in conflict areas in Kachin State, such as the 18 documented cases of rape, gang rape, and murder, cannot be undervalued. Only when there is recognition of these abuses and efforts to address and prevent violations – such as through a Commission of Inquiry – will genuine change be able to take root in Burma.

Sixteen countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Czech Republic and Australia, have already expressed support for a CoI. With human rights violations continuing in conflict areas, it is now time for these countries to take concrete actions to make a Commission of Inquiry a reality and help stop these grave violations in Burma.

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