Burma’s report to UN 'is fictional’

Legal experts have accused the Burmese junta of submitting a “fictional” report to the UN that details a superficially rosy picture of its human rights record.

Known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the report was compiled by the Myanmar Human Rights Committee, led by home affairs minister Maung Oo, and sent to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) earlier this year.

But a scathing analysis of the report by the Hong Kong-based Asia Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) claims it contains “deliberate misrepresentations”, and that the junta’s record of abuses has not improved.

“Despite the meticulous and professional documentation submitted from numerous credible sources to the UPR process, the Government of Myanmar persisted with its usual approach, treating the process not as an opportunity for dialogue but as an opportunity for the making of fiction,” it said.

Among the many falsities are its evaluation of the 2010 elections, as well as the treatment of people in northern Arakan state and sexual violence by Burmese troops.

While Burma is not technically a member of the UNHRC, it has been given ‘Special Procedure’ status by the Council to address human rights violations in the country.

As part of this it was assigned a UN special rapporteur, Tomas Ojea Quintana, to investigate rights abuses in the country. He filed a high-profile report to the Security Council last year calling for a UN investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Burma.

But during an attempted visit to the country in august last year, Quintana was denied a visa. His assistant, Hannnah Wu, the UN’s human rights officer in Bangkok, told DVB at the time that “the [Burmese] government was busy at the time he requested. It’s not good to speculate – they had their reasons”.

What impact the recent UPR will have on policymakers within the UN is unclear, but the ALRC’s director for programme and policy development, Basil Fernando, thinks there is a way to go before Western governments and politicians really understand the gravity of Burma’s human rights situation.

“The part they don’t understand very much is that Myanmar [Burma] doesn’t have a judicial system; this doesn’t exist in the mind of Myanmar,” he told DVB.

The fabrication of so-called facts in the UPR was, he said, an attempt by the junta “to show they have changed” and garner some respect from the UN after years of isolation.

“But it’s just a showpiece and there is no freedom for anybody – no one is allowed to speak or organise themselves around an issue, and in terms of [access to] food, water, and so on, Burma’s situation are among the worst in Asia.”

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