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UN Special Rapporteur on Burma Paulo Sergio Pinheiro Urges Fundamental Political Change in Burma - 2002-10-14


In a report to the U-N General Assembly Monday, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, U-N Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Burma said in order to secure the human rights of its citizens, Burma must achieve national reconciliation and the political transition to democracy.

While pointing out a number of positive developments in Burma, including the release of more political prisoners, Mr. Pinheiro warns that "recent mellowing on the political front has not and could not possibly bring about significant improvements to the complex human rights and humanitarian situation; this is only feasible in the context of a sustainable process of political transition and national reconciliation."

The U-N human rights official stipulated, in his report, that Burma must meet four fundamental conditions for the country to achieve a credible democratic political transition. They are: inclusion of all components of society in political dialogue, the release of all political prisoners, the lifting of restrictions on political parties and groups and the holding of free elections.

The Special Rapporteur also cites ongoing reports of human rights violations in Shan and Karen states as well as a continuing flow of asylum-seekers into Thailand. He called this situation "a symptom of a complex internal situation which is essentially man-made and whose roots are as economic as they are political."

Mr. Pinheiro said the international community should start thinking about how it could help Burma in reviewing prison conditions, examining national laws and training police and judicial officials. He also said: "The present delicate situation needs to be handled with great care and generosity on the part of those who wish the people of Burma well."

The U-N report recommends that the U-N itself begin considering an enhanced or reoriented role in some of the areas that could facilitate the transition process in Burma.

Mr. Pinheiro is scheduled to leave for Burma later in the month for a 11-day fact-finding mission that includes a visit to the ethnic Shan state where allegations of rape by members of the Burmese army have drawn worldwide attention.

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