By Zin Linn>>
Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, will be allowed into the country next week for the first time in more than a year, AFP reported officials as saying on Wednesday.
Mr. Quintana is to meet high-ranking government officials, including the defense and foreign ministers, during his August 21-25 trip according to a government official.
“He will also visit parliament and meet with parliament members,” he told AFP.
Mr. Quintana has not been issued a visa to visit Burma since March 2010, when he suggested forming of a commission of inquiry.
The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution shortly after he presented a report in March that asked him: “to provide an assessment of any progress made by the government in relation to its stated intention to transition to a democracy to the General Assembly.”
In his statement, he said, “I am concerned that the Government is not finding a political solution to solve the ethnic conflicts. The authorities have now reached the final step of their 7-step road-map to democracy, but democracy requires much more. We also have to keep in mind that the electoral process excluded several significant ethnic and opposition groups, so their voices are not being heard in these fora.”
Quintana last visited Burma, also knows as Myanmar, in February 2010 but was not allowed to see opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest at the time. His consequential requests to revisit Burma have been refused.
As a result, Mr. Quintana held a press conference on May 23 at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) following the conclusion of his one-week mission to Thailand. During the press conference, he highlighted that a United Nations commission of inquiry should be set up to address Burma’s human rights violence, which has not ended under the new government.
Quintana also underscored the Burma military has continued to commit widespread human rights abuses in ethnic minority areas where armed conflicts are still taking place along the border with Thailand, which he visited last week.
“These abuses include land confiscation, forced labour, internal displacement, extrajudicial killings and sexual violence,” Quintana said.
In this coming trip, Quintana is likely to meet Burma’s Nobel laureate, who was freed from seven years of house arrest soon after the country’s controversial election in November last year.
It would be the first talks between the UN special rapporteur and the democracy icon of Burma.
Freedom of expression, information and association is controlled by more than half a dozen laws, the violation of which, may be, and in fact is, widely punished by three to 20 years in prison.
There are approximately 2,000 political prisoners who have been detained and sentenced for having peacefully expressed their views verbally, through participation in peaceful demonstrations or in activities of political parties. Some of them are punished for having written about human rights or political issues in the country or for reading or possessing written materials judged illegal.
Releasing political prisoners and granting autonomy to ethnic groups would prove to the international community that new government is going along political change through the real democratic values.
If the President Thein Sein government wants to make real political change, it should not stubbornly used to say there are no political prisoners in its prisons.
Information Minister Kyaw Hsan confirmed at a 12 August press conference that Quintana would be allowed the visa after he was denied for a year. It seems Quintana’s idea of ‘commission of inquiry’ is threatening toward the current president and his cabinet members who have responsibilities with the human rights abuses under previous junta.
Some analysts believe that the government allowed a visa to the UN special rapporteur on human rights because it has a burning desire of holding the ASEAN chair in 2014.