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New United Nations Report Slams Attacks on Civilians by Burma’s Junta and Suggests UN Security Council Action (click to view PDF)

For First Time, UN Official Acknowledges General Assembly and Human Rights Commission’ Recommendations “Disregarded” by Military Junta

For Immediate Release

October 20th, 2006
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum: (202) 234-8022

(Washington, DC) Human rights activists in the United States welcomed a damning report delivered today by a top United Nations official that harshly condemned Burma’s ruling military junta for attacking ethnic villages in eastern Burma and called for the involvement of the UN Security Council.

It is the first time a UN official has suggested involvement of the Security Council and acknowledged the scale of the attacks on civilians in eastern Burma. The attacks have resulted in the destruction and dislocation of an astounding 2,800 villages between 1996 and 2005.

“This groundbreaking report by the United Nations explains exactly why the United Nations Security Council must pass a resolution without delay,” said Aung Din, policy director at the US Campaign for Burma. “The longer the Security Council waits, the more people will die. The Security Council must abide by this report.”

The report, compiled and submitted by UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, was transmitted to the members of UN General Assembly by Secretary-General Kofi Annan. It states that previous recommendations made by the Commission on Human Rights and General Assembly have been “disregarded” by the military junta.

Indeed, UN efforts on Burma have failed to produce national reconciliation, despite numerous attempts. The UN General Assembly and Commission on Human Rights passed 28 consecutive resolutions calling for change in Burma. The Commission on Human Rights appointed three Special Rapporteurs and one Expert since 1991, and Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed two senior, experienced Special Envoys to Burma that served over the past 9 years. All efforts have failed.

“The weakness with UN efforts is that they all have been non-binding,” said Aung Din. “Without a Security Council resolution, the situation in Burma will not improve.”

The move by the Special Rapportuer echoes the report entitled “Chronic Emergency” released in early September, led by researchers from Johns Hopkins University. The report showed health conditions in eastern Burma, where the military is burning down villages, are similar to those found in Africa’s worst conflict zones.

The Special Rapporteur made several recommendations in his report, stating the “the General Assembly consider calling on the Security Council to respond to the situation of armed conflict in eastern Burma, where civilians are being targeted and where humanitarian assistance to civilians is being deliberately obstructed.” The Security Council placed Burma on its permanent, formal agenda for the first time on September 15th, 2006. The move clears the path for action by the Council, including a possible resolution.

Pinheiro’s report highlights the horrific crimes against humanity committed by Burmese military junta against its own citizens, including:

1) Attacks on villages in ethnic areas by Burmese army in eastern Burma. Over 2,800 villages in these areas have been burned down and/or relocated en masse, or otherwise abandoned as a result of the Burmese junta’s military campaign.

2) At present, there are 540,000 internal refugees in eastern Burma with minimum prospects of return and resettlement. The regime does not recognize the existence of these internal refugees and severely restricts access to them by UN agencies and other humanitarian agencies.

3) Sexual violence against women and girls committed by members of the military, especially in ethnic areas. He notes that the numbers reported are likely far lower than reality, as many women do not report incidents of sexual violence by the military because of the trauma attached to it

4) The death of 127 democracy advocates and human rights defenders in prison.

5) One year extension of the house arrest of the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Aung San Suu Kyi, by the Burmese junta in spite of many international appeals, including by Secretary General Annan.