Tag Archives: Burma

[Statement] Burmese government urged to cease the assault and arrest of students protesting in Letpadan and Rangoon

10 March 2015

Burmese government urged to cease the assault and arrest of students protesting in Letpadan and Rangoon

We, the undersigned organizations, strongly condemn the latest instance of brutal and indiscriminate assault by the police and vigilante groups against the students, monks, and residents in Letpadan who have been peacefully exercising their civil and political rights. We further call on the Burmese government to immediately stop the violent attacks, harassment, and arrest of students peacefully protesting against the National Education Law, which centralizes power over the education system, hampers academic freedom, and was approved without proper public consultation.

Since 20 January, hundreds of students have been marching from Mandalay to Rangoon to demand changes to the National Education Law, passed by Parliament in September 2014. The students’ 11 demands for changes to the law include ensuring the freedom to form student unions, mother-tongue language instruction in ethnic areas, greater autonomy for universities, and the allocation of 20% of the national budget to education.

On 2 March, students resumed their protests after the government failed to meet their demands to amend the law by 28 February. A group of students in Letpadan, Pegu Division, were subsequently blocked at a monastery and prevented from marching to Rangoon. In a show of solidarity, students and other supporters in Rangoon and other parts of the country also held peaceful protests at the beginning of March.

On 5 March, police in Rangoon violently cracked down on students peacefully protesting in front of Rangoon City Hall, injuring several and arresting eight protesters, including women’s rights activist Nilar Thein. On the morning of 6 March, police in Letpadan also violently dispersed the student demonstrators held near a monastery and their supporters. Police arrested five students. These detained protesters have since been released.

On 10 March, after the protesters in Letpadan were initially allowed to go to Rangoon, police and members of vigilante groups surrounded the peaceful and unarmed protesters and proceeded to brutally attack them. Injured students, monks, and Letpadan residents who had gathered to express their support were then taken away by the police.

We strongly condemn the use of excessive force and violence against the peaceful protesters by the police.[1] The government must take responsibility for the unlawful and aggressive actions of its security forces against the peaceful protesters. These aggressive actions are reminiscent of the tactics of past military regimes that have been infamous in using lethal violence against students and crushing any form of dissent. Of particular concern is the cooperation between police forces and vigilante groups, who participated in the crackdown and used excessive force against these young women and men.

If President Thein Sein is serious about making educational reform one of the priority measures of his government, it is in his interest to take an inclusive approach by having a dialogue with the students, including leaders of the National Network for Education Reform (NNER) and other student groups in the formulation of education policy.

The violent crackdowns against student protesters further intensifies the backslide on the government’s efforts to transition to full democracy and reveals the government’s continuing reliance on repressive actions. They substantiate the critique that the Burmese government is merely putting up a façade of democratic reform for the sake of gaining political legitimacy and economic engagement from the international community.

We, the undersigned organizations, urge the Burmese government to:

–  immediately cease and desist using excessive force and violence against the peacefully protesting students, monks, activists  and residents and ensure that security forces exercise the highest degree of restraint in any interactions with the protesters  who are exercising their civil and political rights.

–  continue to hold the next hearing sessions for the draft law amending the National Education Law with the representatives of the diverse student movement, including those from ethnic and religious minorities, and to provide the students with an effective avenue to voice their concerns and propose solutions on these matters.

–  prevent any actions that violently repress the right of the students to be heard on issues that directly affect them. This includes protecting the students from the violent actions of vigilante groups that have been harassing them. We condemn the Letpadan police’s threat of using the provisions of the Peaceful Assembly Law against the right of the student demonstrators to freedom of speech, and peaceful assembly.[2]

–  investigate and hold accountable those responsible for the violence, and institutionalize nationwide measures to prevent recurrence of similar incidents.

–  drop all charges against the arrested students, and unconditionally free any students still in detention.

–  amend without delay the National Education Law in line with students’ demands to ensure authentic educational reforms that address the needs and concerns of the stakeholders.

Signatories:

1.   Action Committee for Democracy Development, Burma/Myanmar
2.   Actions Birmanie , Belgium
3.   Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), Bangladesh
4.   All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress, Burma/Myanmar
5.   Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma
6.   Article 19
7.   ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights
8.   ASEAN Sogie Caucus
9.   Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development
10.  Asia-Pacific Solidarity Coalition
11.  Assistant Association for Political Prisoners, Burma
12.  Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters, Burma/Myanmar
13.  Association Suisse-Birmanie, Switzerland
14.  Ayerwaddy Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar
15.  Backpack Health Worker Team, Burma/Myanmar
16.  Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha, India
17.  Burma Action Ireland
18.  Burma Campaign UK
19.  Burma Issues, Thailand
20.  Burma Link, UK
21.  Burma Medical Association
22.  Burma Partnership
23.  Burma-Initiative, Stiftung Asienhaus, Germany
24.  Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK
25.  Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association- ADHOC , Cambodia
26.  Centre for Human Rights and Development, Mongolia
27.  Child Rights Coalition  Asia
28.  Chin State Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar
29.  Christian Solidarity Worldwide
30.  Civil Authorize Negotiate Organization, Myanmar
31.  Civil Rights Defender
32.  Coalition for Refugees from Burma (USA)
33.  Colorful Girls, Burma/Myanmar
34.  Directorio Democratico Cubano (Cuba)
35.  Empower Foundation Thailand
36.  Forum for Democracy in Burma
37.  Free Burma Campaign, South Africa
38.  Globe International Center, Mongolia
39.  HAK Association, Timor Leste
40.  Hong Kong Coalition for a Free Burma
41.  Hong Kong Committee for Children’s Rights
42.  Htoi Gender and Development Foundation, Burma/Myanmar
43.  Human Rights Foundation of Monland, Burma/Myanmar
44.  Human Rights Working Group, Indonesia
45.  Imparsial, Indonesia
46.  Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), Indonesia
47.  Info Birmanie (France)
48.  Interfaith Cooperation Forum
49.  International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), France
50.  Just Associates Southeast Asia
51.  Justice for Women, Burma/Myanmar
52.  Kachin Peace Network, Burma/Myanmar
53.  Kachin State Women Network, Burma/Myanmar
54.  Kachin State Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar
55.  Kachin Women Peace Network, Burma/Myanmar
56.  Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
57.  Karen Community of Canada
58.  Karen Human Rights Group, Thailand
59.  Karen Women Organization, Thailand
60.  Karenni National Women’s Organization
61.  Kayan New Generation Youth, Burma/Myanmar
62.  Knights for Peace International, Philippines
63.  KontraS, Indonesia
64.  Lanna Action for Burma, Thailand
65.  Law and Society Trust (LST), Sri Lanka
66.  Magway Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar
67.  Malaysians against Death Penalty and Torture, Malaysia
68.  Mandalay Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar
69.  MARUAH, Singapore
70.  Migrant Forum in Asia
71.  Mindanao Action Group for Children’s Rights & Protection, Philippines
72.  Mon State Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar
73.  Myanmar ICT for Development Organization
74.  National Youth Congress , Myanmar
75.  Natural Resources Accountability Myanmar
76.  Network for Democracy and Development, Burma
77.  Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma
78.  Norwegian Burma Committee
79.  Pago Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar
80.  Palaung Women’s Organization, Burma/Myanmar
81.  Panzagar , Myanmar
82.  People’s Empowerment Foundation, Thailand
83.  People’s Watch, India
84.  People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), South Korea
85.  Peoples’ Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, India
86.  Pergerakan Indonesia, Indonesia
87.  Philippine Alliance for Human Rights Advocates
88.  PILIPINA Legal Resources Center, Philippines
89.  Potohar Organization for Development Advocacy (PODA), Pakistan
90.  Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, India
91.  Pusat KOMAS, Malaysia
92.  Radanar Ayar Rural Development Association, Myanmar
93.  Rakhine State Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar
94.  Right to Know Campaign, South Africa
95.  SAARC Youth Association
96.  Sagaing Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar
97.  Shan State Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar
98.  Shwe Gas Movement, Burma/Myanmar
99.  Society for Threatened Peoples, Germany
100. South East Asian Committee for Advocacy
101.  Students and Youth Congress of Burma
102.  Suara Rakyat Malaysia
103.  Swedish Burma Committee
104.  Taiwan Association for Human Rights
105.  Taiwan Free Burma Network
106.  Tanintharyi Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar
107.  Task Force Detainees of the Philippines
108.  Tavoy Women’s Union, Burma/Myanmar
109.  Tavoy Youth Organization, Burma/Myanmar
110.  Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma, Thailand
111.  Thai Volunteer Service Foundation
112.  The Life Skills Development Foundation
113.  The Seagull, Myanmar
114.  Think Centre, Singapore
115.  Union of Karenni State Youth, Burma/Myanmar
116.  US Campaign for Burma
117.  Vietnam Association for the Protection of Children’s Rights
118.  Voluntary Internship Program, Myanmar
119.  William Nicholas Gomes, Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com, UK
120.  Women Peace Network Arakan, Burma/Myanmar
121.  Women’s League of Burma
122.  World Merit, Myanmar
123.  World Student Christian Federation – Asia Pacific
124.  Yangon Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar
125.  Yayasan LINTAS NUSA Batam, Indonesia
126.  Yayasan SEJIWA,  Indonesia
127.  Zo Indigenous Forum, India

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[Blog] Burden of Humanity: The Question of the Horrible Plight of the Rohingya. By Jose Mario De Vega

Burden of Humanity: The Question of the Horrible Plight of the Rohingya
By Jose Mario De Vega

I refer to the Guardian report, “UN urges Burma to investigate Rohingya deaths after latest violence”, January 24.

I cannot understand why the world, it seems ironically is lacking in concern and apparently is taking an apathetic stand with regard to the Rohingya people.

The Rohingya people are one of the ethnicities of Burma and according to the United Nations itself, “are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world”.

Mario De Vega

They are Muslim people who live in the Arakan region. They are aptly dubbed as the Palestine of Asia!

As of 2012, there are 800,000 Rohingya who live in Myanmar, 300, 000 in Bangladesh and 24, 000 in Malaysia.

The 2012 Rakhine State riots, according to Wikipedia:

“are a series of ongoing conflicts between Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Rakhine in northern Rakhine State, Myanmar. The riots came after weeks of sectarian disputes and have been condemned by most people on both sides of the conflict. The immediate cause of the riots is unclear, with many commentators citing the killing of ten Burmese Muslims by ethnic Rakhine after the rape and murder of a Rakhine woman as the main cause. Over three hundred houses and a number of public buildings have been razed. According to Tun Khin, the President of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK, as of June 28, 650 Rohingyas have been killed, 1,200 are missing, and more than 80,000 have been displaced. According to the Myanmar authorities, the violence, between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, left 78 people dead, 87 injured, and thousands of homes destroyed. It also displaced more than 52,000 people.

“The government has responded by imposing curfews and by deploying troops in the regions. On June 10, state of emergency was declared in Rakhine, allowing military to participate in administration of the region. The Burmese army and police have been accused of targeting Rohingya Muslims through mass arrests and arbitrary violence. A number of monks’ organizations that played vital role in Burma’s struggle for democracy have taken measures to block any humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya community.”

According to Amnesty International (The Rohingya Minority: Fundamental Rights Denied [2004]), the Muslim Rohingya people have continued to suffer from human rights violations under the Burmese Buddhist junta since 1978, and many have fled to neighboring Bangladesh as a result:

“The Rohingyas’ freedom of movement is severely restricted and the vast majority of them have effectively been denied Burma citizenship. They are also subjected to various forms of extortion and arbitrary taxation; land confiscation; forced eviction and house destruction; and financial restrictions on marriage. Rohingyas continue to be used as forced labourers on roads and at military camps, although the amount of forced labour in northern Rakhine State has decreased over the last decade.”

“In 1978 over 200,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh, following the ‘Nagamin’ (‘Dragon King’) operation of the Myanmar army. Officially this campaign aimed at “scrutinising each individual living in the state, designating citizens and foreigners in accordance with the law and taking actions against foreigners who have filtered into the country illegally.” This military campaign directly targeted civilians, and resulted in widespread killings, rape and destruction of mosques and further religious persecution.”

“During 1991-92 a new wave of over a quarter of a million Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh. They reported widespread forced labour, as well as summary executions, torture, and rape. Rohingyas were forced to work without pay by the Burmese army on infrastructure and economic projects, often under harsh conditions. Many other human rights violations occurred in the context of forced labour of Rohingya civilians by the security forces.”

It feels like that the people of the world does not give a damn to their suffering and completely shut their eyes to the unimaginably horrendous and indescribable misery undergoing by this ethnic minority in Burma.

This in my view is the ultimate heights of irony and the undeniably the lowest pits of absurdity. This is a massive shame to all of us, to humanity as a whole. Yet, having said that, all is not lost, for there is hope!

It is on this great sense that I am applauding the United Nations for standing up and taking the cudgel of the Rohingya people and bringing it on to the attention of a seemingly passive world!

I am specifically commending the commissioner of the UN Human Rights, Madame Navi Pillay for steadfastly and consistently highlighting the sorry and grim plight of this ethnic group.

The “UN human rights agency says it has information of 48 Muslims killed in Rakhine by Buddhist mobs, the deadliest in a year.” This accusation came directly from The UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay.

Said commissioner also dared Yangon to tell the truth “by responding to these incidents quickly, the Burmese government has an opportunity to show transparency and accountability.”

According further to the Guardian report:

“At least 48 Muslims were killed when Buddhist mobs attacked a village in an isolated corner of western Burma earlier this month, the United Nations has said, calling on the government to carry out a swift, impartial investigation and to hold those responsible accountable.”

As usual, the Presidential spokesman Ye Htut “has vehemently denied reports of a massacre” and “strongly objected to the UN claims.”

According to him, “the facts and figures” that pertains to this incident were “totally wrong”, but “evidence of a massacre has been steadily mounting.”

As already noted, “Burma, a predominantly Buddhist nation of 60 million people, has been grappling with sectarian violence since June 2012.”

Undeniably, “the incident in Du Chee Yar Tan, a village in northern Rakhine state, appears to be the deadliest in a year, and would bring the total number killed nationwide to more than 280, most of them Muslims. Another 250,000 people have fled their homes.”

The UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, said that “she had received credible information that eight Rohingya Muslim men were attacked and killed in Du Chee Yar Tan village by local Rakhine on 9 January.”

The commissioner also pointed out that “the UN believes at least 40 Rohingya Muslim men, women and children were killed, bringing the total to at least 48.”
Pillay categorically stated that:

“I deplore the loss of life … and call on the authorities to carry out a full, prompt and impartial investigation and ensure that victims and their families receive justice…”

Further, said commissioner also admonished Yangon to answer to this bloody incident:

“By responding to these incidents quickly and decisively, the government has an opportunity to show transparency and accountability, which will strengthen democracy and the rule of law in Myanmar.”

It was reported that after the aftermath, “the village has been emptied and sealed off since the massacre.”

I concur with the call to the government of the executive director of the Thailand-based rights group, Fortify Rights, Matthew Smith “to give humanitarian workers, independent observers and journalists, unfettered access to the area. He said hundreds were still in hiding and may need help.”

I am also in agreement with him that the mass arrests must stop.

Smith said that:

“These arbitrary detentions broaden the scope of the human rights violations in the area and should be immediately brought to an end. There needs to be accountability for this wave of horrific violence … but mass arrests of Muslim men and boys are not the way.”

Though the Burmese government has repeatedly denied that any violence that took place on the said area on the said date, I am compel to say that I do not believe on their repeated denial. If what they are saying is true, then they should allow the UN workers, independent media and journalists and other pertinent global humanistic organization to go to the said area to see for themselves the true state of affairs.

I call upon the international community and all humanists to join the struggle of the Rohingya people.

Once, the late great President Nelson Mandela said that:

“We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
Nonetheless, I would like to add to those words of wisdom of that great man:

That our freedom is incomplete without the freedom, not only of the Palestinian people, but also those of the Rohingyas and all people who are victims of violence, marginalization, discrimination, exploitation and dehumanization, etc!

To paraphrase the immortal words of Rosa Luxemburg:

What I want is a universal system that will enable me to love everybody with a clear conscience.

FOR WE ARE ALL ONE!!!

Jose Mario Dolor De Vega

Philosophy lecturer
College of Arts and Letters
Polytechnic University of the Philippines

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[Appeal] Urgent Call for International Solidarity to Urge ASEAN to help halt intensifying conflict in ethnic states in Burma

Urgent Call for International Solidarity to Urge ASEAN to help halt intensifying conflict in ethnic states in Burma

We are movements and organizations calling on the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to add its voice and heed mounting international calls for an immediate stop to the continuing attacks on the Kachin people in Burma.

The Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC) and the signatories below urges all ASEAN governments to end its silence on the humanitarian challenges happening within its own backyard and compel the Burmese government to stand down and stop the violence it is perpetrating in Kachin state. Air strikes in the ethnic state were reported to have begun a few days ago.

As this situation unfolds into a grave humanitarian crisis, the ASEAN governments are obliged under its own Charter and international laws to address systematic human rights violations that occur even outside their own territories. The displacement of around 75,000 people since June 2011 and deaths of around 300 people during the last air strike in the northern states of Kachin and nearby Shan must be condemned. The Kachins have long been disenfranchised economically and politically, and have been suffering from poverty, sexual violence against women and children, forced labor, extra judicial killings, among others. It is time that their miserable situation is addressed head-on.

As the so-called reformist Burmese government continues to justify its acts of violence by claiming that their military action was done in self-defense, ASEAN governments should take a more proactive position in joining the call of the international community to pressure the Burmese government to cease and desist further military action that would only intensify the conflict and inevitably result to widespread human rights abuses in Burma. ASEAN should also lead and seek the unimpeded flow of humanitarian assistance to the internally displaced peoples caused by the conflict.

While it is imperative to tackle the immediate situation in Kachin, the only way to strategically resolve the conflict is if the demand of the Kachin and ethnic peoples for genuine political dialogue and recognition of their ethnic rights and identities are heeded.

We call on all humanitarian institutions, peace-loving individuals and the global solidarity movement for Burma to support the call for peace and ethnic rights of the struggling peoples of Kachin and the rest of Burma.

 

Signed:

 

Regional & Global

Asia-Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC)

Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (Altsean – Burma)

ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC)

Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development (APWLD)

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia)

Burma Partnership (BP)

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CWS)

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

Forum of Burmese in Europe (FBE)

Jubilee South – Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JS-APMDD)

 

Aceh

Aceh Judicial Monitoring Institute (AJM)

Acehnese Civil Society Task Force (ACSTF)

Peoples Crisis Centre (PCC).

Saree School for Human Rights and Peace (SHRP)

 

Australia

Burma Campaign Australia

 

Belgium

Actions Birmanie

 

Burma/Myanmar

Kachin National Organization (KNO)

Karen Women Empowerment Group (KWEG)

Myanmar People’s Forum (MPF)

 

East Timor

East Timor Students Solidarity Council (ETSSC)

 

France

Association Info Birmanie

 

Germany

Burma Aktion

Society for Threatened Peoples – Germany

 

India

Burma Centre Delhi (BCD)

Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)

 

Indonesia

Akar Bengkulu Indonesia

KALYANAMITRA

MartoArt

Solidaritas Indonesia untuk Burma (SIB)

 

 

Japan

People’s Forum on Burma (Japan)

 

Malaysia

Hon. Charles Santiago, Member of Parliament of Malaysia

Hon. Tian Chua, Member of Parliament, Malaysia

 

Norway

Norwegian Burma Committee

 

Philippines

Free Burma Coalition – Philippines (FBC-P)

Free Burma Coalition – Philippines (Cebu) (FBC-P Cebu)

Active Citizenship Foundation (ACF)

Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)

Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP)

Center for Agrarian Reform, Empowerment and Transformation, Inc. (CARET)

Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA)

Center for Peace Education, Miriam College

Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas (HRDP)

Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralitang Lungsod (KPML)

Mindanao Peace Weavers (MPW)

Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC)

Nisa Ul-Haqq Fi Bangsamoro (Women for Justice in the Bangsamoro)

Partido ng Manggagawa (Labor Party-Philippines)

Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)

Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PHILRIGHTS)

SANLAKAS

United Transport Workers Organization (UTWO)

 

Poland

Polish Burma Solidarity

 

South Africa

Free Burma Campaign – South Africa (FBC-SA)

 

Sweden

Swedish Burma Committee

 

Switzerland

Association Suisse-Birmanie

 

United Kingdom

Burma Campaign UK

Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

Burma Action Ireland

 

Thailand

All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress

Assistant Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)

Back Pack Health Worker Team (BPHWT)

Forum for Democracy in Burma

Human Rights Education Institute of Burma

Nationalities Youth Forum

 

USA

U.S. Campaign for Burma

 

West Papua

Dewan Adat Papua

 

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[People] Violations expose Myanmar reforms as a sham by Renato G. Mabunga

Violations expose Myanmar reforms as a sham
by Renato G. Mabunga
November 6, 2012

Myanmar’s parliament was to debate on Monday a proposal to abolish a provision in the 1975 State Protection Act that allows the government to restrict the fundamental rights of people suspected of “endangering state sovereignty and security, public peace and tranquility.”

The proposal is the latest among legislative initiatives that are part of Myanmar’s “reform process,” although freedoms of expression, assembly and association continue to be systematically violated.

The purported legislative reforms, with the enactment of several new laws and the review of existing ones, have largely resulted in new forms of controls and restrictions that are applied selectively.

Myanmar’s reform process has resulted in little, if any, improvement on the respect for fundamental freedoms on the ground. It has become largely an empty showcase to appease the international community.

A fact finding mission conducted by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) from October 24 to 30 discovered that the rights to peaceful assembly and of association of particular groups, including former political prisoners, labor rights activists, student unions, and members of ethnic nationalities, are still being denied.

An array of laws that restrict the fundamental freedoms of the rights to expression, assembly and association, including the Emergency Act, the Unlawful Association Act, and the 1988 law relating to the formation of associations, remain.

The right to freedom of assembly, in particular, has been denied to groups that are considered “sensitive” or threatening to the government.

In the last two months alone, scores of individuals have been arrested for organizing and participating in peaceful assemblies.

In September, 13 leaders, organizers, and participants of peaceful assemblies to mark International Peace Day were summoned and subsequently charged under the 2012 Decree on the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession after their application for a permit was rejected by the government.

Leaders and organizers of peaceful demonstrations, including protest actions against a mining project in the Letpadaung region, are also facing threats and harassment from authorities.

However, some street demonstrations were allowed to proceed, including the anti-Rohingya protest actions of Buddhist monks and university students in Rakhine state.

These double standards in the implementation of the law call into question the universal principles of Buddhism on peace, harmony, wisdom and understanding.

The continued violations of fundamental freedoms and new forms of control expose the empty façade of Myanmar’s reform process. Human rights protection in Myanmar will remain illusory if fundamental freedoms are not properly safeguarded in the current legal reforms.

Renato Mabunga is chairman of Human Rights Defenders, a lobbyist at the UN Human Rights Council and a regional educator on human rights. He was in Myanmar last week to assess freedoms of expression, assembly and association in the country on behalf of FORUM-ASIA

SOURCE

UCA News

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[Statement] Remembering the Saffron Revolution, Solidarity Activists vow to continue support in pushing for genuine reforms and democratization in Burma -FBC-Phils.

Remembering the Saffron Revolution, Solidarity Activists vow to continue support in pushing for genuine reforms and democratization in Burma

On the 5th anniversary of the Saffron Revolution, the Free Burma Coalition- Philippines (FBC-P) reiterates its solidarity with the Burmese peoples’ continuing struggle for genuine democracy, freedom and justice.

FBC-P believes that the current changes taking place in Burma, is the result of a long history of resistance of the Burmese peoples – including the series of escalating protests that took place on September 22 – 27, 2007, known as the Saffron Revolution. The military regime did not effect the ongoing reforms willingly.

The Saffron Revolution- led by brave, young and old Buddhist monks and sustained by courageous students– was a clear message that the Burmese people have had enough of the repression under the Generals who have virtually governed their lives since their nation’s inception.They could no longer be silenced.

As changesunfold, it should be emphasized that democratization within Burma is nowhere close to creating the necessary conditions towards building genuine democracy in the country.The intensifying ethnic conflicts, continued militarization in the borders, oppressive laws, remaining political prisoners,spreading violence against women and children, persistent human rights violations with impunity, denial of peoples participation in the decision making process, among others, are issues that desperately merit the attention and sustained support of the international solidarity movement.

For FBC-P, genuine democratization in Burma can only be achievedthrougha process thatinvolves the people – through genuine consultations and dialogues.The international solidarity movement to which FBC-P belong, will continue, and, intensify its workin pressuring and pushing for genuine democratization In Burma.

For comments and suggestions please call IID-MLO 02.911.0205 or 02.435.2900;
Attention: Malou Tabios-Nuera, Email: mltabios@gmail.com; Mobile: 0947.235.2648
Rich de los Santos, Email: rich.delossantos84@gmail.com; Mobile: 0927.644.6524

September 28, 2012

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[In the news] 21 years later, Aung San Suu Kyi finally accepts Nobel Peace Prize -InterAksyon.com

21 years later, Aung San Suu Kyi finally accepts Nobel Peace Prize
Reuters
June 16, 2012

OSLO, Norway – Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi finally accepted her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Saturday after spending a total of 15 years under house arrest and said full political freedom in her country was still a long way off.

“Absolute peace in our world is an unattainable goal,” Suu Kyi said in her acceptance speech during her first trip to Europe in nearly 25 years.

“Hostilities have not ceased in the far north; to the west, communal violence resulting in arson and murder were taking place just several days before I started out the journey that has brought me here today.”

Suu Kyi, the Oxford University-educated daughter of General Aung San, Myanmar’s assassinated independence hero, advocated caution about transformation in Myanmar, whose quasi-civilian government continues to hold political prisoners.

“There still remain such prisoners in Burma. It is to be feared that because the best known detainees have been released, the remainder, the unknown ones, will be forgotten,” Suu Kyi, 66, told a packed Oslo City Hall.

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/34915/21-years-later-aung-san-suu-kyi-finally-accepts-nobel-peace-prize

[From the web] Akbayan Party congratulates Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy

Akbayan Party congratulates Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy

April 4, 2012

Akbayan Party congratulates Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League of Democracy (NLD) for their historic victory in the recently concluded by-elections in Burma. Despite persistent efforts by the military junta to derail the elections, the NLD has won at least 44 of the 45 contested seats in parliament. This election, although touted by many as token and merely symbolic, is a clear manifestation of the outright rejection of the military junta and a vote for genuine democracy by the peoples of Burma.

However, the peoples of Burma must not rest on their laurels. The military junta still controls most institutions of government and can easily withdraw some reforms it has introduced. The peoples of Burma must now persevere even harder now that they have representation in the parliament no matter how small it may be. This landslide victory of the NLD and the election of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi into parliament have undoubtedly been foreseen by the junta. The current political realities such as the international pressure on the junta and Burma’s continued isolation must be taken into account along with this latest development. Clearly, the military junta only wishes to project itself to the world as open to reforms by conceding a number of seats to the opposition while maintaining a huge majority of parliament. In effect, the junta is attempting to silence the opposition within the halls of parliament. We are certain that the peoples of Burma will not allow the military junta to deprive them of this victory. We are confident that with their continued struggle, both inside and outside of parliament, military rule will cease sooner than later and democracy will be restored.

While we celebrate this momentous occasion, we will also continue to cautiously await any future developments. Rest assured that Akbayan Party together with the Filipino people will continue to support the aspirations of the peoples of Burma for a free and democratic government.

Source: akbayan.org.ph

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[Statement] from the Burma/Myanmar Delegation to the ACSC/APF 2012 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Statement from the Burma/Myanmar Delegation to the ACSC/APF 2012 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Burma/Myanmar’s workshop, along with three other workshops, was not allowed to take place at the ACSC/APF 2012. Rather, the organizers were forced to move the workshops to another location.

The workshop was to be on Burma/Myanmar’s current political and human rights situation and the challenges this poses to the country’s chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014. On the first day of the conference organizers also received pressure to remove pictures of political prisoners from Burma/Myanmar in the exhibition hall of the conference.

The challenges and restrictions experienced in Cambodia are an alarming reminder that Burma/Myanmar’s chairmanship in 2014 will likely face significant hurdles in providing the space for the people of Burma/Myanmar and the independent regional civil society to gather and take the people’s concerns to ASEAN leaders.

Indeed, despite encouraging developments, Burma is still a place of systematic and widespread human rights violations that may constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes, and no political space and freedom. The recent negotiations between Thein Sein’s government and ethnic armed groups have not led to an end to conflict and the Burma Army continues to perpetrate gross human rights abuses against ethnic civilians.

The recent easing of media censorship has not been accompanied by legislative reforms. Repressive laws, which include restrictions on freedom of speech, assembly and the press, remain on the books.

Released political prisoners face ongoing harassment, constant surveillance and re-arrest. There remain a documented 959 political prisoners behind bars, but this number is believed to be higher. The people continue to fear arrest for their political activities.

We therefore urge ASEAN leaders to:

Respect the right to freedom of speech and assembly of the independent civil society and the people of ASEAN.

Commit to promote a genuinely people-centered ASEAN and the free and meaningful participation of the people of Burma/Myanmar and the regional independent civil society in ASEAN’s process of community building during Burma/Myanmar’s chairmanship in 2014.

Urge President Thein Sein to:
Unconditionally release and rehabilitate all political prisoners and immediately stop intimidation and surveillance of those who have been released;
Withdraw Burma Army troops from ethnic areas and reach a nationwide ceasefire that addresses the root political causes of conflict with ethnic armed groups;
Provide aid to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in all conflict affected areas and permit international and local NGOs to deliver humanitarian assistance;
Address the issue of truth and accountability for human rights abuses and put an end to the ability of the Burma Army to perpetrate crimes with impunity;
Amend or repeal those laws that restrict the human rights of the people of Burma/Myanmar in order to guarantee free and meaningful participation of the people and independent civil society in the transition process;
Ensure that development projects take into account local communities’ needs and rights, do not exacerbate conflict, respect international environmental and human rights standards, are conducted in a transparent manner and support civil society;
Constructively combat the country’s drug problem by supporting alternative crop development rather than destroying opium fields and livelihoods, by investigating the Burma Army’s involvement in the drug trade and carrying out public awareness-raising about the dangers of drug use throughout the country; and;
Ratify and implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and promote economic and social integration of disabled persons.

Source:  Task Force on ASEAN and Burma on the ACSC/APF 2012

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Suu Kyi makes election debut in Myanmar

Suu Kyi makes election debut in Myanmar.

GMA News, AFP
April 1, 2012

Kawhmu, Myanmar — Voting began Sunday in Myanmar elections seen as a test of the government’s budding reforms, with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi standing for a seat in parliament for the first time.

A victory for Suu Kyi would cap a remarkable transformation for the 66-year-old icon of the pro-democracy movement, who spent most of the past 22 years locked up by the generals who ruled the country for decades.

Her National League for Democracy (NLD) party swept to a landslide election victory in 1990 but the junta never recognised the result.

Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize the following year, was not a candidate herself on that occasion because she was under house arrest.

Her party is contesting 44 of the 45 seats at stake in Sunday’s vote — not enough to threaten the ruling party’s majority, but a seat in parliament would give the opposition leader a chance to shape legislation for the first time.

Polling stations opened at 6:00 am (2330 GMT Saturday) and were due to close at 4:00 pm, with more than six million people eligible to vote. The results are expected within about one week, according to election officials.

Observers say the regime wants the pro-democracy leader to win a place in parliament to burnish its reform credentials and smooth the way for an easing of Western sanctions.

Read full article @ www.gmanetwork.com

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[Blogger] Games, Politics, and Society -Politics for Breakfast

Games, Politics, and Society
Politics for breakfast
February 19, 2012

Should Syria continue its costly war against terrorism? Did Myanmar‘s junta make a good choice in letting Aung San Suu Kyi campaign for a parliament seat? Why did Ahmadinejad decide to disclose new nuclear projects amid apparent opposition of the US and NATO countries on its nuclear program? How will the Philippine Senate vote on the impeachment case of the Supreme Court Justice given the President’s obvious preference?

The political arena is defined by such decisions on conflict and cooperation involving civilians, political parties, religious groups, social movements, corporations, and even revolutionary groups. The process with which one can arrive at a rational, well-thought-of decision in politics seems to be overwhelming, given the complexity of individual and social behavior.

Read full article @ politicsforbreakfast.blogspot.com

[In the news] DFA chief Del Rosario meets Suu Kyi, vows support -INQUIRER.net

DFA chief Del Rosario meets Suu Kyi, vows support
By Jerry E. Esplanada, Philippine Daily Inquirer
February 14, 2012

MANILA, PhilippinesForeign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario has joined the growing list of supporters of Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

During a Feb. 9 meeting with Suu Kyi at her Rangoon residence, Del Rosario “expressed his sincere wish” the opposition leader would win in Burma’s (Myanmar) parliamentary by-elections scheduled for April 1.

They “held a brief exchange of views” about the coming elections, as well as on “political and socioeconomic reforms and the rule of law” in the Southeast Asian country, said Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Raul Hernandez.

In a text message, Del Rosario said that he and Suu Kyi “discussed reforms towards democracy and national reconciliation and the need for sustainability.”

“We also declared our support for the lifting of sanctions against Burma and offered our proposal to develop Philippine-Burmese parliamentary friendship,” the DFA head told the Inquirer.

Read full article @ globalnation.inquirer.net

[Event] DEMOCRATIZATION PERSPECTIVES IN BURMA: “Strengthening Philippine Solidarity” A Public Forum- FBC Phils

The Free Burma Coalition-Philippines (FBC-Phils)
and the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID)

invite you

File photo source: guardian.co.uk

DEMOCRATIZATION PERSPECTIVES IN BURMA:

“Strengthening Philippine Solidarity

A Public Forum

09 February 2012 (9:00am-8:00pm)

UP Balay Kalinaw, University of the Philippines – Diliman Quezon City

 

TENTATIVE PUBLIC FORUM PROGRAM

9:00 to 12:00noon lunch at 12:00 noon

Registration

Welcome Remarks

Presentations by speakers focusing on the following topics:

Burma in transition to democracy?

The role of states and peoples in accompanying Burma towards democratization

Challenges to the solidarity movement

Panel of Reactors/ Open Forum

Synthesis

 

[Resources] Tips for digital activists (Series 2)

 This is the second part of our sharing of information about tips for digital activists.

Like what we had already mentioned in our first post on Tactic no 1, these useful information are shared from the advocacy group Tactical Technology Collective’s project which they call as “10 Tactics for turning information into action.”

“10 tactics” explores how rights advocates around the world have used information and digital technologies to create positive social change. It also came out in DVD form that includes films and set of cards in pdf format, filled with tools, tips and advice to help other advocates plan their own info-activism.

We are now sharing their Tactic No 2 entitled “Witness and record”

http://www.tacticaltech.org/act/project/10-tactics

PLAN YOUR ACTION (Excerpts from 10 tactics card no 2)

● In Burma, bloggers and rights advocates faced significant risks in coming forward with their testimonies and evidence. How will you protect yourself and others involved in and supporting your campaign? Consider the digital trail you may leave: your IP address, email accounts, passwords, lists of friends you have on social network sites, the names that your mobile phones and SIM cards were purchased under, and the names and organisations that websites’ domain names have been registered to.

● Develop criteria for verifying the witness reports you collect and publish. Some citizen reporting platforms have been abused to accuse innocent people and expose dissidents’ identities.

● One way that WITNESS has protected the identities of people in video testimony is to not record their faces. By backlighting a person, you can record a silhouette of his or her face without showing revealing details. In this way, even if your tapes were seized, there would be no visual record of the people in them.

● Talk people through the “worst case scenario” if they told their story and their identity was compromised or revealed. This discussion allows you to get informed consent from people and can help you plan how to minimise risk.

To read more and download the 10 tactics cards visit http://www.informationactivism.org/en/tactic2video

[Press Release] The Women’s Caucus: Can we still trust ASEAN?

Despite the hype surrounding the ASEAN Summit in Bali, women from the region found no signs in ASEAN towards advancing women’s human rights and gender equality. Instead they alarmed with the body’s support for the 2014 chairship of Burma, where cases of women’s human rights violations are mounting, among others. Moreover there are qualms over the civil society space in Cambodia when it starts the chairship next year.

“Although Indonesia has been quite open to civil society, this is not a nice touch as Indonesia ends its term and passes the baton to the next chair,” Rena Herdiyani of Kalyanamitra, a member of the South East Asia Women’s Caucus on ASEAN (Women’s Caucus) put it.

“The Burmese Army’s widespread attacks against ethnic civilian communities, especially against women, is an egregious violation of international law and blatantly shows the lack of the rule of law in Burma. We know that you understand the security of women is not a minor issue, but a major problem that has to be addressed before a nation can progress,” the Women’s League of Burma said. The organisation documented 81 cases of rape this year alone.

The ASEAN Summit ended just days before the 16 Days of Activism against Violence Against Women international campaign.

With this development, the Women’s Caucus is watchful of the drafting of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD). “Women’s human rights must never be a point of negotiations. ASEAN must acknowledge what we are born with, as affirmed by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and other international human rights instruments.” Herdiyani added.

Last month, the Women’s Caucus formally submitted its input to the AHRD, reiterating human rights such as equality and non-disrimination, freedom from violence, sexual and reproductive health and rights, equal rights in marriage and family life, decent work in local and overseas employment and citizenship especially for refugees and women on the move, among many others.

As the AHRD will be deliberated and adopted under Cambodia’s chairship, the Women’s Caucus call for an open and safe space for civil society next year. “We are not just feminists and activists but we are stakeholders of ASEAN, we have to critically engage with the process, especially as ASEAN is increasingly become a part of our daily lives. There is no way we could do this if ASEAN only wants to hear good things,” Kunthea Chan of Cambodian women’s organisation, Silaka asserted.

The South East Asia Women’s Caucus on ASEAN or the Women’s Caucus is a network of women’s organisations from 11 countries, engaging ASEAN to advance women’s human rights in the region.

27 November 2011
PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release
Contact persons:
Rena Herdiyani, +62 8129820147
Nina Somera, +62 87836563943 and +66 811621073

[From the web] Next two years key to human rights development in ASEAN region – UN human rights chief

BALI / GENEVA (28 November 2011) – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Monday that the next two years will be crucial to the development of regional and national human rights institutions in the ASEAN region, particularly in the light of developments under way in Myanmar, which will chair ASEAN in 2014.

Pillay has spent the last three days on the Indonesian island of Bali meeting the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), National Human Rights Institutions from four of the ten ASEAN countries* and a broad range of civil society organizations. While in Bali, she also spoke by telephone with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, on a range of issues including Myanmar’s forthcoming chairmanship of ASEAN.

“One element that emerged very clearly from the meetings and discussions that I had are that the next couple of years will be crucial if the advancement of human rights is to gather pace in this region,” Pillay said.

Pillay commended Indonesia’s “very positive” approach to human rights during its 2011 chairmanship of ASEAN and AICHR (which was created in 2009 with a broad mandate to promote human rights), and its vice-chairmanship of a second human rights body, the ASEAN Commission for Women and Children.

“These regional human rights bodies are still young, but I hope and believe they will develop in the years to come, and we must be careful to encourage this evolution,” she said. “It is important to sustain the momentum generated by the very welcome creation of these bodies, and it is now time to start shifting up through the gears.”

Earlier, in the first ever address by a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to AICHR, she noted that “the aspirations and expectations outside this room are high – in civil society, the media, among ASEAN’s international partners and, most importantly, among ordinary people.” At the end of the day, she added AICHR Commissioners – and the governments they represent – “will be judged by what they achieve,” how their work compares with regional bodies elsewhere in the world and whether or not it is in line with international standards.

“It will be very important to show tangible achievements and creative applications of AICHR’s mandate by the time the first review of AIHCR takes place in 2014,” the High Commissioner said.

Pillay noted that a number of concerns had been raised by around 75 delegates, representing 40 civil society organizations from nine of the ten ASEAN countries, with whom she held several hours of discussions on Sunday. “The number one concern,” she said, “was that AICHR – as a body — is not talking to civil society, although there have been some contacts with the current chairperson and one or two other Commissioners in their individual capacity. That is a major concern to me as well. No discussion of human rights can be complete or credible without significant input from civil society and national human rights institutions.”

The UN human rights chief also urged AICHR to listen to civil society calls for more transparency, particularly with regard to the forthcoming ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, due to be finalized by the end of the year. “This is potentially  a very important document which may set the tone for years to come,” Pillay said. “And I can understand civil society organizations’ extreme frustration that they have not even been able to contribute to the drafting of the declaration, or been adequately consulted on its contents. This is happening against the backdrop of some significant changes, for instance the new political dynamics that seem to be developing in Myanmar and the reform of draconian national security laws elsewhere in the region.  At the same time, freedom of expression continues to be threatened in many countries and increasing religious intolerance has placed pressure on women and minorities.”

Noting the intense spotlight that will be focused on ASEAN’s progress on human rights in 2014, when the first review of AICHR takes place under the Chairmanship of Myanmar, the High Commissioner said she had discussed this and other related issues with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at the weekend.

“We covered a range of issues in Myanmar, including recent encouraging developments such as the release of some political prisoners and the creation of the national human rights commission,” Pillay said. “Aung San Suu Kyi has always been a tremendously inspirational figure when it comes to the promotion of human rights and democracy. I am encouraged by the fact that the Government of Myanmar, and in particular the President, have started a dialogue with her. Nevertheless, we both agreed that there is still a very long way to go.”

Pillay said that Myanmar would need to be making significant progress in a number of key areas by the time it takes over the Chair of ASEAN and its human rights subsidiaries in two years time.

“Aung San Suu Kyi informed me that she believes the number of political prisoners remaining in detention is probably around 600, although there may be others her party is not aware of,” Pillay said. “I join her in her desire to see all political prisoners released in the very near future.”

Pillay said she and Aung San Suu Kyi discussed a number of other key issues where demonstrable progress would be needed by 2014.

“Perhaps most fundamentally, significant moves towards establishing the rule of law are key to halting the serious human rights violations taking place in Myanmar,” the High Commissioner said. “For the outside world to be sure this is happening, there will need to be a system of independent human rights monitoring across the country, including in remote conflict-affected areas, and there needs to be a major effort to resolve the conflicts themselves, and the underlying issues that fuel them.”

“During my talks with the four existing ASEAN National Human Rights Institutions, and with Aung San Suu Kyi, we agreed it was important to engage with the fifth national human rights institution created in Myanmar in September. It will inevitably require time and support to establish the independence and credibility it needs to be fully accepted on both the national and international stages.”

Pillay also said the next round of by-elections will provide a further indication of how quickly progress is being made. “In addition to the conduct of the next elections, the Government needs to encourage the development of independence: independent civil society organizations, independent media and a truly independent National Human Rights Commission,” she said.

“Aung San Suu Kyi was cautiously optimistic,” Pillay added. “I share her optimism — and her caution. We should not underestimate the magnitude of the tasks that lie ahead for the Government, people and institutions of Myanmar as they develop their much-needed reforms. I pledge to do everything I and my office can to help transform the recent positive signals and tentative advances into substantial and irreversible progress.”

Pillay noted, as another encouraging sign, that staff from her Regional Office in Bangkok were invited to carry out human rights training for a wide range of government officials from various ministries in November. “The feedback was encouraging,” she said. “These officials, many of them from an emerging younger generation, were very positive, interested, energized. Both the human rights training, and its enthusiastic reception, would not have been permitted only a couple of years ago.”

(*) The four ASEAN states with internationally recognized National Human Rights Institutions are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

ENDS

Learn more about the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/Pages/HighCommissioner.aspx

For more information on the UN Human Rights office mandate and work: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Pages/WelcomePage.aspx

For more information on human rights in the Asia-Pacific region: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/AsiaRegionIndex.aspx

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[Press Release] Transpinay human rights defender in two-day training with Bumese transgender advocates

Changmai, Thailand — Naomi Fontanos, Chairwoman of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP), the pioneer human rights advocacy organization of transpinays (transgender/transsexual Filipinas), is in Changmai, Thailand to facilitate a two-day training workshop on transactivism among transgender advocates from Burma.

The 2nd Burmese Transgender and Transsexual Human Rights Training Workshop  on 20-25 November 2011 is organized by the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB),  a Changmai-based foundation that conducts a broad range of training and advocacy programs for grassroots organizations and community leaders.

“We are making history once again as one of the leading transgender human rights organizations in the world by being invited to share our activism experience and expertise in the Philippines with the transcommunity from a neighboring ASEAN country,” Fontanos observed.  “We are humbled and honored by this recognition and are more than happy to be of service to transmovements around the world,” she added.

Fontanos, who has been STRAP’s leader for two years, will be in Changmai for two days to discuss basic transgender issues, needs and concerns, gender identity and human rights, transgender activism  and STRAP’s successes under her leadership .

The Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) is the pioneer human rights advocacy and support organization of transpinays (transgender/transsexual Filipinas). We seek to improve the public understanding of transsexualism, campaign for the right to define one’s gender identity and expression and work towards building a supportive  community amongst transgender/transsexual Filipina girls and women and a society free from transphobia and discrimination.

[Press Release] PM asks PH to support creation of UN body to investigate junta’s crime against humanity in Burma

The labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (Labor Party-Philippines) today called on foreign affairs officials to support the international campaign for the creation of a United Nation’s body which can inquire into allegations that Burma’s ruling junta is involved in crimes against humanity.

Burma, officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, is ruled by a military junta since 1962.  A constitutional reform initiated by the Junta in 2008 led to the holding of elections in 2010.  After the November 2010 elections, the junta-backed  Union Solidarity and Development Party won 80% of the votes.  But opposition groups disputed the results and have accused the junta of involvement in massive election fraud.

In a picket held at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City, PM urged the DFA officials to convince President Benigno Aquino III to support the establishment of the UN-led Commission of Inquiry with a specific mission to probe international crimes in Burma which reportedly include sexual violence, the recruitment and use of child soldiers, forced labor, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, extrajudicial killings and disappearances.

“Governments as well as democratic social movements have the duty to defend the human rights of people who are under systematic state repression, especially when they are your own neighbors,” said PM secretary-general Judy Ann Miranda.

The labor group said should the Philippine government firms up its position on this issue, it should make sure that it joins the campaign inside the UN General Assembly which is scheduled to convene its 66th session tomorrow, September 13.

The Philippine-based Free Burma Coalition (FBC) had also asked the Philippine government to use its influence inside the ASEAN and apply more pressure to the Burmese junta for genuine democratic reforms including immediate cessation of hostilities and all forms of human rights abuses in Burma.

PRESS RELEASE
Partido ng Manggagawa
12 September 2011
Contact: Judy Miranda
09228677522

[From the web] The U.N. Should Document Burma’s Abuses – online.wsj.com

The U.N. Should Document Burma’s Abuses
It’s time to set up a commission of inquiry. Asean cannot stand by.

By LORENZO R. TANADA

Today European foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss, among other issues, a resolution on Burma to be tabled at the United Nations General Assembly. Later this month, members of parliament from Southeast Asia will gather for the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Association meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Both are opportunities to build momentum for a United Nations-led commission of inquiry into possible crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma.

To date, 16 countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and the Czech Republic, have called for a commission. Yet Burma’s Asean neighbors have remained silent. Perhaps some consider such a move gratuitous and meddlesome. But if Asean is to assert itself as a leading organization on the global stage, its members need to send a clear message that crimes against humanity affect the entire region and will not be tolerated.

An inquiry would not be a political tool for assigning criminal liability; rather, it would be a mechanism to document atrocities committed in Burma over the years and help prevent future atrocities by encouraging policy reforms in Burma’s judicial system. It would also provide victims of Burma’s protracted civil war an opportunity to seek justice for their grievances, and so contribute to building a lasting peace.

Human rights monitors have documented abuses in Burma for more than two decades, and the U.N. General Assembly has passed 20 resolutions describing possible crimes. In March 2010, Tomás Ojea Quintana, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, recommended establishing a commission of inquiry. Leaving Burma after a five-day mission last week, Mr. Quintana reiterated his position.

Read full article @ online.wsj.com

[From the web] ASIA: Asian Alliance Against Torture and Ill-treatment launched – www.humanrights.asia

ASIA: Asian Alliance Against Torture and Ill-treatment launched

A Joint Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission and the Asian Alliance Against Torture and Ill-Treatment

A group of 26 human rights defenders and organisations, today concluded a five-day regional conclave and formed a unique regional initiative – The Asian Alliance Against Torture and Ill-treatment (AAAT). The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT), Denmark took the lead to organise the foundational meeting of the AAAT, first of its kind in Asia. The meeting was held from 15 to 19 August at the AHRC’s office in Hong Kong.

Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, China, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Burma, Indonesia, Thailand and Hong Kong were represented in the meeting.

Human rights defenders and jurists discussed deep-rooted problems that result in the widespread use of torture with impunity in Asia in the meeting. The participants shared experiences on what leads to the use of torture in Asian countries and reasserted that there is a close nexus between torture and corruption, and above all, the failure of justice institutions in the region to address this. The participants also shared their anguish about the existing nature of policing in Asia that requires a thorough overhauling to meet the human rights norms expected of state agencies of today.

The participants asserted that there is an urgent requirement for a reorientation within the global human rights movement from norms education to the understanding of the functioning of domestic legal frameworks, and with that knowledge, to engage with the domestic mechanisms to improve their functioning, or in some jurisdictions where justice institutions do not exist, to encourage building them. The participants expect that international bodies like the United Nations and regional groupings like the European Union would make this approach as a reoriented priority of engagement with Asian states.

The participants emphasised that pursuing accountability will remain an illusion without justice reforms. Impossibility of making complaints; lack of witness protection frameworks; absence of training and equipments for scientific investigation of cases; inefficient prosecutions; insensitive and sometimes corrupt or generally non-independent judges; and extensive delays in adjudication that in some jurisdictions could last for decades; negates the basic perception of justice in most Asian states. The relative difficulty in dealing with detention centres like prisons and the inhuman practices perpetrated against detainees and convicts was also highlighted in the meeting. The resultant environment that clearly lacks a mandate of protecting, promoting and achieving the rule of law facilitates the endemic use of torture in Asia.

Drawing inspiration from the anti-slavery movement, the AAAT observed that today, modern facilities available, like in the communication technology for instance, must be used by the human rights movement, to document and disseminate information and to liberally use the developments in technologies of communication in their lobby for change. The AAAT also called for the global human rights movement to make fighting torture as one of the priority issues.

The AAAT resolved to hold regular meetings and to undertake active domestic and international work within the region to bring an end to the culture of torture with impunity in Asia.
# # #

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Visit our new website with more features at http://www.humanrights.asia.

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[In the news] ASEAN ‘unlikely to discuss worker rights’ – the Jakarta Post

Mustaqim Adamrah, The Jakarta Post

Taking a seat: Trade Minister Mari Pangestu (right) accepts a seat placard from her Vietnamese counterpart, Vu Huy Hoang, during a ministerial economic meeting in Vientiane last week. Indonesia will chair all ASEAN economic meetings after the transition.Courtesy of the Trade Ministry. Photo from: aseancivilsociety.net

Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei — three ASEAN countries that receive large numbers of migrant workers from their neighbors — will likely remain reluctant to discuss migrant worker issues at ASEAN ministers’ meetings, a senior Indonesian government official says.

However, the countries would not rule out discussing the issue altogether, especially at lower-levels, he said.

“The senior officials’ meeting [on Tuesday] considered that the issues on the establishment of instruments for the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers needed to be discussed further on a technical level,” Office of the Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare’s culture, tourism, youth affairs and sports coordinating deputy Sugihartatmo said here Wednesday on the final day of a three-day ASEAN senior officials’ meeting.

“I think there’s still a chance [to bring up migrant worker issues] in another senior officials’ meeting and to recommend discussions on these issues further at the ministerial and leader levels.”

ASEAN senior officials and ministers will meet days before the ASEAN Summit, which will bring all ASEAN leaders to Jakarta from May 7-8.

Sugihartatmo said the countries that received migrant workers would likely remain unwilling to discuss migrant worker issues at higher levels.

Echoing Sugihartatmo, Philippines Foreign Ministry director general for ASEAN Victoria S. Bataclan said there was still a possibility of discussing migrant worker issues at the summit.

“My understanding is that discussions and consultations will continue among the ASEAN member states… We have all the sectorial bodies that deal with relevant issues, in this case, migrant workers — it is certainly in the ASEAN sociocultural community,” she told The Jakarta Post.

Negotiations on the draft of the ASEAN Framework Instrument on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers have stalled since a meeting in Kuala Lumpur in December in 2009.

The two biggest worker-receiving countries — Malaysia and Singapore — have been at loggerheads with
the two largest migrant worker providers — Indonesia and the Philippines.

Malaysia and Singapore opposed the legally binding concept of the framework and standards of protection of undocumented migrant workers on a human rights basis.

Malaysia and Singapore have made another proposal to contest the draft proposed by Indonesia and the Philippines despite the fact that the first draft had already taken into consideration submissions from the opposing countries.

But Bataclan said progress had been made in the latest meeting between ASEAN technical officials dealing with the framework instrument.

“As far as I know in the last meeting, I think, of the drafting group who met, there was progress on the scope of the rights that we are talking about,” she said.

“The rights mentioned in the existing ASEAN declaration on the protection of migrant workers and their families will be the ones that we will put into a convention on the protection of migrant workers and their families.”

The number of Indonesian migrant workers, including those undocumented, in Malaysia is estimated at 2 million.

According to data compiled in 2010 by the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore, there were around 86,000 Indonesian domestic workers, 16,000 professionals and 12,400 workers in the maritime industry
in Singapore.

Indonesian migrant workers working in neighboring ASEAN countries and the Middle East often face a range of problems, from not being paid to physical and sexual abuse, which in some cases resulted in death.

Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Secretary-General Datuk Mohd Radzi Abdul Rahman declined to comment on the issue.

—JP/ Mustaqim Adamrah

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