LRWC Burma Country Report: April 2005

Copeland, Paul

The political situation in Burma is worse than before, if that is possible. Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is still under house arrest. This time she has been held for 22 months, and still counting. The other senior leader of the National League for Democracy, U Tin Oo, has been under imprisonment and then house arrest for 22 months.

General Khin Nyunt, the former third in command of the country and head of Military Intelligence (the main repressive part of the Army) was arrested in 2004 and is now in jail. Strange as it may sound, people are now thinking he was the most moderate of the SPDC leadership.

The so-called Constitutional Convention continues, with no progress in sight and without National League for Democracy participation.

The U.N. Special Envoy on Burma, Ismail Rizaili, was not allowed to enter Burma in 2004 or 2005. Nor was the UNHCR Special Rapporteur, Sergio Pinheiro. In his June 2004 report, Prof. Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation in Myanmar, expressed his disappointment with the lack of cooperation with his mandate on the part of the Myanmar authorities which has resulted in him being unable to carry out in situ missions to Burma.

The Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of the Union of Burma, Washington D.C. applied on March 27,2005 for political asylum for himself and his family based on his expectation that he would be arrested, tortured and possibly killed on his return to Burma.

There are still approximately 1500 political prisoners in Burma. Long jail sentences are handed out by military courts. There is no independent judiciary. Even though they have a modified form of the British common law, Habeas Corpus does not exist.

There is no independent Bar Association. One existed before 1988, but since then the military government has appointed the members of the Bar Association. Canada puts out nice words on Burma put has taken no steps to help the democracy movement or to move the U.N. to impose sanctions against the SPDC. The U.S. government takes a much stronger position on Burma. A full regime of sanctions is in place for Americans and American companies.

LRWC Actions

  • LRWC wrote letters on behalf of arrested Shan political leaders to General Than Shwe, the leading military dictator of the State Peace and Development Council in what they call Myanmar. Copies were sent to the Embassy of the Union of Myanmar in Ottawa. Although requested, there was no response received from either Than Shwe or the Embassy.
  • LRWC assisted with writing letters on behalf of the Muslim people of Rakhine State in Burma, known as the Rohingya who have been subjected, by Government officials, to multiple human rights abuses to which other residents of Rakhine State are not subjected, including forced labour, displacement, extortion, forced evictions, statelessness and restrictions to their freedom of movement that prevent employment, education and family interaction. These letters were directed to the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on the situation in Myanmar, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, ASEAN working group on human rights and the Asian Human Rights Commission.
  • LRWC member Heather Neun spoke at the September 25th, 2004 Burma Day event at the University of British Columbia. This event was in support of prisoners of conscience in Burma including students Khin Maung Win and Thet Naung Sue, imprisoned for 7 and 14 years for participating in a peaceful demonstration. The event was organized by three of local Amnesty International groups: The North Shore group, the UBC Legal Network and the UBC Amnesty group.

Paul Copeland is the LRWC Burma Country Monitor