An advisor to President Thein Sein, Dr Nay Zin Latt has said the government is to form a national-level, independent human rights committee to handle human rights issues in the country, but doubts remain about a future body’s autonomy.
Dr Nay Zin Latt, after meeting with UN Human Rights Rapporteur Thomas Ojea Quintana, told DVB that a constitution is being drawn up for the committee and will likely be announced in the near future;
“The President has told us to work on this since some time ago and we are currently working on it. Actually, we had groups like this in the past but they were not properly organised,” said Nay Zin Latt.
“This time, we are forming a committee that is capable of working on a broad range of human rights issues.”
“You will see an organisation that is free from government’s influence and is capable of working independently,” he claimed.
Despite that Nay Zin Latt refused to disclose who would be on the committee.
The National League for Democracy’s (NLD) spokesperson and lawyer Nyan Win, however, said he was doubtful about the potential committee’s autonomy;
“If the [committee] is to be independent, then the government shouldn’t get involved – otherwise there will be limitations. It sounds like there will be improvements in the new committee than the previous one. But I’m still doubtful whether it would really be independent or not,” said Nyan Win.
“It is not likely that a few independent individuals would be able to protect our human rights. It would be more meaningful if they included more outside individuals to work together with government departments in forming the committee because otherwise these departments could collude – so we have to look at it from both sides.”
“Personally I’d prefer an organisation formed with independent and credible individuals,” he added.
Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are not allowed to work officially inside Burma. Such groups have claimed that a UN commission of inquiry is necessary following years of alleged abuses by the government. Such a suggestion needless to say is rejected out of hand by the government.
Human Rights Watch voiced concerns that practices such as forced portering and using convicts as porters are continuing apace under the new regime. A report they penned indeed alleged that in January of this year alone some 700 convicts had been press ganged into the dangerous job of slave portering in war torn Karen state.
Whilst the issue of autonomy for any institution is problematic in the current political climate, with parliament filled with the ranks of the military.