Special UN committee condemns Burma

Nov 20, 2009 (DVB), A special committee of the United Nations General Assembly yesterday received a sharp rebuke from the Burmese government after passing a resolution condemning its human rights record.

Burma's ambassador to the UN, Than Swe, said that the resolution was "glaringly deficient" and little more than "another means to maintain pressure on Myanmar [Burma] in tandem with sanctions," Reuters reported.

The non-binding resolution was passed by the General Assembly's Third Committee, which focuses on human rights, by 92 votes to 26, with 65 abstaining. A similar vote was also passed on North Korea.

The assembly "strongly condemns the ongoing systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Myanmar," Reuters said.

It also voiced "grave concern" at the recent trial and sentencing to further house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and urged the military junta to release her and all other political prisoners.

Furthermore, it urged the military government to ensure that elections in Burma next year are "free, fair, transparent and inclusive".

The General Assembly is the only organ of the United Nations which allows all 192 members an equal representation.

The issue of human rights violations in Burma has been a thorny issue among the five powerhouses of the UN – Britain, United States, France, China and Russia – with the latter two often defending the country's ruling generals against Security Council resolutions.

Both Russia and China hold strong trade relations with Burma, while much of the Western world has to date enforced economic sanctions on the regime.

Following China's veto in January 2007 of a UN resolution urging the junta to stop human rights abuses against its citizens, Beijing was given the go-ahead to construct pipelines connecting Burma's vast offshore gas reserves to its southern Yunnan province.

While the US has blocked trade in an attempt to isolate the regime, the Obama administration announced recently that sanctions would remain in place until the ruling junta shows signs of improvement on its human rights record.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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