Thursday, November 20, 2008

NCGUB seeks ASEAN mobilization as human rights crackdown intensifies

Washington DC, 20 November, ( The Burmese government in exile has called for ASEAN governments to initiate UN-backed Commission of Inquiry to investigate the military regime's latest human rights violations. The call comes as Burma's junta is intensifying its campaign of imprisoning democracy supporters as a means of clearing the ground prior to nominally free elections set for 2010.

"Regional powers cannot sit idly by," says the NCGUB's UN representative, Dr. Thaung Htun, "and reap the rewards of immorality."

"We condemn the arbitrary sentencing of Burmese citizens to long periods in jail. We believe Burma's regional partners cannot fail to do so too and to act accordingly by taking on this issue on at next month's ASEAN Summit in Thailand."

In the past weeks, around 80 Burmese have been arrested and rushed through "kangaroo courts", often behind closed doors. Sentences have gone as high as 65 years for such acts as providing defence counsel to pro-democracy advocates, aiding international media during the recent Nargis cyclone aftermath and even for publishing a poem which includes a line critical of the Burmese leader, General Than Shwe.

The sentences have included jail terms in far-flung regions, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for family and friends to visit and support them.

Some of those sentenced are monks who have been identified as being involved in the peaceful Saffron Revolution street marches in September 2007. Also included have been high ranking members of the influential 88 Generation Students group.

The NCGUB is proposing a plan which sees the ASEAN Summit calling for a Commission of Inquiry by the United Nations Human Rights Council. This inquiry should be carried out on a similar format as that which was established to investigate human rights violations in Sudan.

The Commission should be coordinated by UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur for Burma, Mr. Tomas Ojea Quitana and should include other input from UN Thematic Rappoteurs on such matters as:

* Independent Judiciary

* Violence against Women

* Children and Armed Conflict

* Freedom of Expression and Information

* Arbitrary Detention

"ASEAN should fully commit to this process, facilitate its evolution and, fully co-operate in its investigations. Such an initiative will give weight to the body's calls for a human rights office within ASEAN and would enhance its reputation as a body concerned about the abuses of its members."

ASEAN as a bloc is a major trading partner of Burma, while the ASEAN+3 countries, who are also meeting next month, would constitute a significant majority of Burma's total foreign trade and investment.

"If Burma's political prisoners wore sponsorship," adds Thaung Htun, "they would be emblazoned with the logos of major corporations, governments and finance companies of our neighbors." "It's time action was taken."

The National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) is a government-in-exile constituted by members of parliament elected in 1990, Burma's last free and fair national elections in which the National League for Democracy won over 80% of the vote. Since 1991, it has served as a representative government in exile and is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

- Asian Tribune -

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