Burma should be one of the priorities of the new United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who should take an active personal interest to ensure the implementation of the annual UN General Assembly resolutions on restoration of democracy and national reconciliaton in Burma.
The 185-nation UN General Assembly on Dec. 12 last year adopted a resolution by consensus without a vote calling on the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) to “accelerate the process of transition to democracy” and “without delay begin a process of genuine and substantive dialogue with the leaders of the National League for Democracy and with other political leaders who were duly elected in the democratic elections of 1990, including representatives of the ethnic minorities”.
The UN General Assembly deplored the continued violations of human rights in Burma, censured the Burmese military junta for using forced labour to build its economy, torturing prisoners, abusing women and conducting summary executions and called for the release of all political prisoners.
The text of the UN General Assembly resolution last December was based on an October UN report by UN Commission on Human Rights special rapporteur Rajsoomer Lallah, the former chief justice of Mauritius, which described the rights abuses in chilling detail.
Rajsoomer said the practice of forced labour for development projects, usually run by the army, was widespread and included women, children and old people forced to help build roads, railways, bridges and gas pipelines. Some of the labour was carried out by prisoners, many of whom are systematically tortured.
It is most regrettable that SLORC had last year refused to allow neither the special representative of the UN Secretary-General, Alvaro de Soto (Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs) nor the UN Commission on Human Rights special rapporteur to visit Myanmar to discharge their mandate to assist in the restoration of democracy and national reconciliation.
What is even more shocking is that SLORC had been able to use its position in ASEAN, first as an observer and now pending admission as a full ASEAN member, as justification for its repressive and draconian policies against the pro-democracy forces and ethnic minorities in Burma. Burma’s increasing acceptance in ASEAN has also hardened SLORC’s position to defy UN General Assembly resolutions - although these resolutions had been adopted in the name of all the ASEAN members which agreed that they be accepted by the UN General Assembly by consensus without a vote!
Before ASEAN considers the membership application of Burma which is timed for the 30th Anniversary ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur in July this year, the ASEAN countries should study in depth the report of the UN Human Rights Commission Special Rapporteur, Judge Rajsoomer Lallah, which had documented widespread and flagrant human rights abuses and submitted 17 recommendations to the SLORC.
ASEAN governments should consider whether a country which is guilty of such flagrant violations of human rights as contained in the Rajsoomer Lallah report should be given further encouragement to defy regional and international opinion by given the stamp of approval as formal admission into ASEAN in July.
ASEAN nations should co-operate with the new UN Secretary-General to promote democratisation and national reconciliation in Burma by requiring SLORC to be a responsible member-state of the United Nations in allowing both the UN Secretary-General or his representative and the special rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Commission to visit Burma to carry out their UN mandates, as well as to respond to the 17 recommendations on democratisation and national reconciliation made by Judge Rajsoomer Lallah.